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From the collection of the 



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San Francisco, California 

OF R^rtt) 







205 West 57th Street New York 



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My name is RADIO! My influence shall abide! 
I, Magic Box, am something years ago 
The wizards dreamed of in the Arabian Nights. 
Science has conceived and brought to birth, 
More wondrous far than legends' figments wrought 
By the ingenious bards of long ago. 

Use cannot make me stale nor custom pale 

The glamor of my march of offerings. 

The world now needs me every day and night 

To fill its every want and appetite 

For news, for music and sweet conversation, 

For comedy that wreathes society in smiles. 

I feel like a spirit medium that can bring 
The listener what'er he wishes from the void. 
Do you want multitude of thoughts, all types? 
Full measure comes with the revolving dial; 
The masters wait to pour out symphonies 
That rock the world and set your soul on fire. 

Do you want messages of happenings 

About this troublous world? You surely may. 

Do you seek sympathy, companionship? 

Then I am ready to respond and give 

You all the fullness of my complex chords 

To shake you out of selfish isolation 

As you glide on from station unto station. 

For I am RADIO! Forward tomorrow, 

I shall strike out for rich new worlds to conquer 

Making the present television faint 

A shadow of the glories that will come 

In fullness of the real in shape and hue. 

Life shall be more bounteous for my task! 
'Tis mine to enlarge your reach and view and ear 
To the utmost bounds, making man great 
As could be wished when a young Alexander 
Did set to conquer the whole habited world; 
Only my means persuasively are unfurled. 

tfc 25 :Z 







4. Music 117 















BROADCASTING brought into the mental picture a 
new species of hysteria called "microphone fright." 

The microphone creates in many individuals an extraor- 
dinary fear and a nervous reaction that often defies analysis. 
Jane Froman, the singer once expressed it: "The most nerve- 
wracking moment is thirty seconds before you go on the air." 

The human nervous structure is a complicated switch- 
board. The microphone is entirely unrelated to the average 
person's mental path. When this new instrument is plugged 
into the psychical nervous center, the individual "sees" new 
things which do not exist. The nerve currents tend to reverse. 
The whole system is overcome by a blockage. This produces 
symptoms of speech paralysis for no physical cause. 

The very presence of the microphone brings about changes 
in the vasomotor system, the respiration system, the viscera 
and certain peripheral changes such as perspiring and muscu- 
lar contractions. In addition to these primary reactions, there 
are other reaction-patterns which depend upon the cerebro- 
spinal nervous system. These involve such reactions as facial 
expression and vocalization, and also flight. Many a man 
would like to flee from the microphone once he's before it. 

Note the reaction of Gargantua. The circus gorilla was to 
have roared and beat his chest (just as Johnny Weismuller 
does) before a wire mike. Bob Carter was engaged to coax 
the beast to perform his vocal daily dozen. However, like 
many a prima donna and operatic tenor, the sight of the 
microphone frightened our jungle friend, and for the dura- 
tion of the broadcast he remained mute. 

How shall one avoid the "fidgets" when one comes before 



the microphone? The only way is to organize intellectually 
the emotions to accept the studio and the microphone as a 
very ordinary situation. Thus, control over the emotion fear 
represents a certain intellectual control and balance. 

Only by experience can the emotions be intelligently or- 
ganized to accept the microphone as a very ordinary gadget 
like the telephone. One should talk into the microphone 
with the same sense of composure that one talks into the 

Will Rogers complained that the first parts of broadcasts 
were never as good as the last parts, so five minutes before 
his contribution to the program, he started speaking into a 
dead microphone. Edward G. Robinson is somewhat nervous 
in the first five minutes of his program. Alton Cook reports 
that it takes Robinson those five minutes to get into the 
melodrama's spirit, after which he swings into full tilt. 

Many programs are broadcast successively to the West 
Coast as well as to the East. The rebroadcast in every in- 
stance is more improved. Practice, in radio, makes for 
smoothness and ease of manner, control in voice, naturalness. 

John Barrymore, himself, is not immune to microphone 
fright even after rehearsing diligently. Ed Sullivan reports 
Barrymore's first appearance before the little metallic filter 
through which he was to make one of his passionate 
speeches. "Gentlemen," said John, "I am not a cowardly 
man, and I have looked into the eyes of cold and sullen 
audiences in theaters, but there is something so completely 
impersonal and so sneeringly eloquent about the micro- 
phone that I feel an immediate urge for a drink." The 
studio attendants were not astonished at the request, for the 
drink was produced immediately. 

Dr. R. E. Lee is authority for the statement that Lou 
Holtz always starts his broadcast with a swig of sherry, 
to ensure a clear throat. Zasu Pitts, in order to get the mood 
for her broadcast, rode up and down all afternoon in the 


subway. Such a method is as good as any other for focalizing 
your own sense of sensibility and self-control. 

The broadcasting studio itself represents an unusual set- 
ting. The unnatural hush upsets even the most poised 
persons. The program director, with his eyes glued to the 
clock, with his arm ready to signal that you are about to 
go on the air, looms up as a sort of Jack-the-Giant-Killer. 
There is a grimness about the studio even in the bright 
white lights. The microphone itself seems to look at you 
with metallic grimaces. The whole area seems hostile. Even 
no well-wishing audience that stares at you intensifies your 
uneasiness. And the lynx-eyed man in the control room seems 
to peer right through his glass window right into your very 
soul. All this sounds fantastic to the experienced broad- 
caster; but these are often very genuine reactions to the 
beginner. Hollywood stars who unflinchingly face the bat- 
teries of cameras suddenly get the jitters when they enter 
the broadcasting studios and face the mike. Experience be- 
fore the moving picture machine does not always imply 
an easy attitude before the microphone. 

In radio circles, the term "snerk" is used in describing 
mike mannerisms. The personal "snerks" of performers play 
a large part in establishing self-assurance. Many a performer 
clings to superstition. Ella Fitzgerald, a swing vocalist with 
Chick Webb, always wore gloves during a broadcast. The 
Andre sisters could not go on unless their father was sitting 
in the front row directly in front of the mike. Every radio 
artist has his own distinguishing set of microphone manner- 
isms. Before and during a broadcast Kitty Carlisle bites her 
lips. Rudy Vallee keeps fingering the bridge of his nose, as if 
in deep thought. Kate Smith keeps tugging at her skirt. 
Dick Powell rearranges his handkerchief a half dozen times. 
Jeannette MacDonald wears glasses while broadcasting, and 
either has one foot or both hands on the chair before the 
microphone. This allows a sort of physical ease and creates 


assurance and steadiness. Joan Crawford broadcasts seated 
at a table, because she cannot trust her quivering knees. 
In the spring of 1937 during the Lux program she forsook 
her customary manner, stood right up center stage and 
braved the mike. Publicity announcements state that her 
husband, Franchot Tone, planted a kiss on the courageous 
little woman, for this successful evidence of self-control. For 
six years Walter Winchell stood up when before a mike. 
Now he remains seated but always wears a hat. Lee Wiley 
always takes off his shoes. Lawrence Tibbett is a foot tapper 
when he sings. Because a battery of mikes causes him to 
stammer, only two microphones were allowed in front of 
George VI, both gold plated, when he toured Canada. 

Lupe Velez made her first broadcast on Ed Sullivan's 
program some years back. As she finished her song, Lupe 
stepped back and quite unaware that the microphone could 
pick up her voice as she retreated from it, said: "That was 
lousy." There was a horrified silence from the CBS engineers 
as her "lousy" remark shot out on the air from coast to 
coast. Sometimes this nervousness is due to the fact that one 
is pinned down to a script. George Raft is ill at ease when 
pinned down to a script. He talks much more freely when 
he is permitted to ad lib. The new experience of coordi- 
nating reading with appearing before the microphone is 
disturbing. Mary Livingstone's hands shake like a leaf. She 
gets very nervous. A columnist who mentioned this to 
Eddie Cantor reports Cantor as remarking, "Mary is the 
only one in radio with a Sunday broadcast who starts getting 
nervous the previous Wednesday." This is no attitude of 
mind with which to approach the microphone. 

Conditions in the studio sometimes jar the nerves of per- 
formers. Thoughtful producers make every effort to make 
things agreeable. The successful performance, they know, 
depends upon the performer's peace of mind. It is said that 
Jessica Dragonette used to complain about the air in the 


studio frequently. The program director, to appease her, 
would pick up a dead studio telephone to go through the 
elaborate pretense of severely reprimanding the ventilation 
engineer. On the authority of Alton Cook who tells this 
story, "the air was fresh then." 

Ed Wynn at one time was quite exigent. He wanted three 
microphones so he could turn around as he spoke. The 
engineers gave him two extra mikes, one on either side 
connected to nothing. A most satisfying hoax was played 
upon Leopold Stokowski. The conductor insisted that he 
and not the control engineer should operate the control 
board. They gave him a dummy board and he turned the 
dials with the delight of a baby. The actual control opera- 
tion was performed by an engineer in another part of the 
building. In the early days a glass curtain was installed across 
the front of the studio stage. Studio acoustics have im- 
proved to such an extent that an orchestra with a glass 
curtain deflecting its sounds would sound terrible. Programs 
no longer try to cut out the sounds an audience makes. 

For some speakers the first appearance before the micro- 
phone is their final appearance. Nothing can be done to 
improve their temper. Their fears are deeply rooted. Damon 
Runyon had one trial before the microphone and called it 
a day. On the program with him were Gatti-Casazza, Gloria 
Swanson and the late Arthur Brisbane who was making his 
first appearance. This was in 1926. Sobol reminisces in his 
New York Cavalcade: "Brisbane was to precede Runyon 
and the latter watched and listened off side. There was 
something about Brisbane's deadly earnestness that chilled 
Runyon, and two minutes before he was to speak he slipped 
out a side door and made the elevator in nothing flat. No 
broadcasting studio has been honored by him since." 

Jo Ranson tells the story of the late Ray Long, magazine 
editor, who possessed all the poise in the world. When 
asked to appear on the WABC's "Going to Press Hour," 


Long wrote a beautiful speech, but was so struck by mike 
fright that he fell completely off the chair and pleaded that 
he could not continue. ; /* 

Candid microphones have the effect of minimizing nerv- 
ousness. Candid microphones that masquerade as silver vases 
and bowls of flowers are replacing the "forest" of ugly 
microphones that used to surround the speakers at a banquet 
table. The audience wants to see and hear, but it does not 
want to be distracted by a battery of "mikes." One of these 
"candid mikes" is a decorative vase-like piece with silver 
handles and a silver rod as antenna. For it is not only a 
microphone but a complete short-wave transmitter requiring 
no wire connections. Covered with flowers, it becomes a 
floral centerpiece for the table. 

How to Stand Before the Microphone 

Richard Crooks stands well back before the microphone, 
because his voice is full and round. Margaret Speaks stands 
much closer. That makes their duets look very odd with the 
soprano standing a foot or two in front of the tenor; but 
these relative positions, in the blending process create a 
perfect union of their voices. 

Choirs often sound loud and robust on the air. A splendid 
effect can be obtained with only seven voices. Before begin- 
ning accompaniments for the choir songs, Alfred Wallen- 
stein, oboe and clarinet players bend down and come up 
with the saxophones, to give the proper reception. All these 
tonal effects must be steady and much depends upon the 
relative positions of the players before the microphone. 

Edward G. Robinson often is a problem to the engineers. 
He makes sudden dramatic changes in his voice, modulated 
from a soft tone to a sharp, loud voice. The engineer must 
be prepared at all times to adjust his volume levels, else his 


station would be knocked right off the air. Transmitter 
tubes are limited in the volume they will carry. 

There is a general impression that the sound engineer 
through some electrical wizardry can make a voice or an 
orchestra sound better than it really is. The truth is that 
a microphone can report nothing except what goes into it. 
All the engineer can do is to reproduce the qualities of the 
sound with the greatest possible fidelity. 

Position before the microphone is everything. NBC once 
built an iron fence waist-high around the microphone to 
keep the actors at a proper distance. The director must 
judge the positions of the players before the microphone so 
that the sounds will be natural for those positions. Distance 
from the microphone to the origin of any sound changes it, 
in volume and in quality. The whole subject concerns the 
study of sound perspective. When Helen Hayes appeared 
for her air production of "Jane Eyre," the director had to 
figure out how high to place the microphone as Miss Hayes 
stands five feet one inch, while her supporting star, Bob 
Montgomery, was just one foot taller. Douglas Shearer, re- 
cording director of the M.G.M. studios, calls attention to 
the attention-factor in listening. The brain subconsciously 
selects what it wants to hear and discards the rest. The 
microphone has no attention-factor because it has no brain. 
The engineer supplies the brain by calculating to what 
extent it is necessary to reduce extraneous sounds to give 
the feeling of naturalness, not to intrude on the presenta- 

During a Ripley-WJZ program in April, 1937, "Ship- 
wreck" Kelly was one of the guests. Everything was done to 
make the champion flagpole sitter feel at home. A flagpole 
was erected in the studio and Kelly was to broadcast from 
the top of it. Let Alton Cook tell the rest: "Time came for 
his first line, and Kelly sat paralyzed with mike fright, 
couldn't utter a sound. Ripley and Ozzie Nelson filled in 


with remarks to cover the difficulty, hoping their man would 
recover. Finally, Ed Gardner, a director, began shouting 
Kelly's lines from the foot of the flagpole. That worked well 
enough except for one line. Kelly recovered enough to read 
that one right after Gardner had finished it." 

Programs like Jack Benny's employ several microphones. 
The control man tacks little signs all over the switchboard, 
which keep track of who is using each individual mike. One 
sign says "Benny," the second, "Baker," etc. 

Sound effects require special attention. When the sound 
of a door slamming is to get put in, the sound man's micro- 
phone is turned on to catch the slam and then it is turned 
off again. Control men are careful not to leave an unused 
microphone open, because someone might sigh and say, 
"My God, I wish this pesky business was all over." Or, as 
is reported of one announcer on a children's program, "And 
that will be all for you, little ." 

The voice is sometimes too small for concert or opera, 
but is excellent for radio work. A good musician is more 
and more in demand in this field where facility in reading 
and general musicianship are required. The policy of the 
Juilliard School of Music is to discourage all from entering 
the field as professionals unless their talents justify their 
belief that they could make a living as musicians. 

Microphone "Technique" 

The word "technique" involves the notion of something 
highly technical. The dictionary will tell you that it is the 
method of performance or manipulation in any art peculiar 
to any field. Method of performance before the microphone 
consists of a few elementary rules of position, and the use 
of the voice. The microphone technique of a performer or 
speaker may be perfect; yet his voice or his playing may be 
devoid of expression and fail to express intelligently his own 


ideas or the ideas of the composer. Many erroneously believe 
there is something mysterious about microphone technique 
that requires exhaustive study. The truth is that attention 
should be focused on performance rather than upon that 
grandiose term, microphone technique, which gives the 
speaker or artist a feeling that he must study engineering 
in order to appear before the microphone. 

Mastery at the microphone by the President is often illus- 
trated as an example of microphone technique. Franklin D. 
Roosevelt knows how to direct his words effectively to both 
the visible and the invisible audience. The technique in 
this instance merely implies that he has been trained in 
obeying those physical positions before the mike which 
effective transmission requires. Surely when a man is told 
not to cough into the microphone he would not regard it 
as a piece of microphone technique. 

As a piece of engineering skill, studio engineers assembled 
a pygmy-size microphone for the exclusive use of Johnnie 
Roventini, the page boy of the Philip Morris program, 
WEAF. There was no more need for the box which lifted 
his 43-inch frame to the microphone level. The individual 
mike painted a bright red on a low stand is for his exclu- 
sive use. 

Irving Reis, once of the Columbia Workshop, when asked 
if it had been his experience whether actors unfamiliar 
with the microphone had any difficulty in adjusting their 
art to the new medium, replied: "I believe that any intel- 
ligent actor can learn all about the technique of broad- 
casting in an hour, especially if he has had any experience 
in motion pictures. I would say that it is much easier to 
learn the technique of broadcasting, than for a stage actor 
to learn the mechanics of the screen or a film player to 
become initiated in the technique of the theatre. 

"But in making his debut in the radio studios the actor 
is merely taught the mechanics of broadcasting; he is told 


to keep within certain range of the microphone. A line 
may be chalked off to indicate his position, and if he be- 
comes confused by the physical movements, he is told to 
stand still and to leave the entire matter in the hands of a 
radio engineer, who is expert in regulating the tone level. 
It has been my experience that when an actor begins to 
worry about the microphone 'distances' to the detriment of 
the part he is playing, it is better to let him forget about 
the mechanics altogether and to let the control men do 
the regulating in their glass-enclosed booth." 

In the Clutch of the Engineer 

The control engineer exercises sovereignty over everyone 
in the broadcasting studio. By a twist of his dials he can 
shut out the sound, or soften it down, or make it swell in 
volume. His duty is to see that there isn't too great a volume. 
From his control room, the voice goes to the master control 
board, where the master control engineer corrects any errors 
in sound volume overlooked by the studio engineer. From 
the master control the voices travel over wires to the station 
transmitter where they are sent out over the ether. 

These engineers always keep guard at the station trans- 
mitter where they are converted into radio waves traveling 
with the speed of light. If the volume is too heavy at the 
transmission point there is great danger of destroying the 
sensitive transmission tubes, blowing the station off the air. 

The studio control room man cannot afford to take 
chances. His judgment of the dial is checked and double- 
checked. An easier control, they insist, is to have the per- 
formers control volume by moving toward or away from the 
mike. It is this insistence upon a fixed position that makes 
performers self-conscious and often prevents them from 
giving their best performance. 

Andy Sanella expresses his control of fear in this way: 


"Well, I sort of get set as a runner at a track meet does just 
before the gun goes off, but after that I am perfectly at 

Sometimes microphone fright is induced by a lurking fear 
of a tongue-twister. Tongue-twister fear or the fear of some 
blunder in song or speech is common to all artists. This fear 
of making an error is a form of self-consciousness and indi- 
cates a lack of concentration. You may be overcome by fear 
in the beginning, but after a while broadcasting becomes a 
lot of fun, and you never think of mistakes. 

Rehearsals tend to make a performance perfect. Some 
performers do worse during the informal atmosphere of the 
rehearsal. It requires the "real thing" to bring out their 
best abilities. The transition in mood to the final broadcast 
is thus expressed by David Ross: "While I prefer the in- 
formal surroundings of the rehearsal I believe the tense 
atmosphere of the actual broadcast induces a proper nervous 
excitation to call for a more spirited performance." 

Presence of mind in the studio is always important 
Things happen that cause the heart to beat faster. There is 
the case of Amanda Snow. A group of folding chairs was 
piled a few feet away from the microphone into which she 
was singing. In the middle of fhe song Amanda swayed back 
a pace or two and caught her heel in one of UK chairs. She 
glanced back quickly. The singer instantly knew that if she 
tried to pry her heel loose, the pile of chairs would topple 
down and come over the air with the explosion of an 
earthquake. Pity her! She continued singing in this uncom- 
fortable position for twelve minutes, her foot paining her 
more by the minute. The program over, she quickly released 

It is important that the band director know his micro- 
phone technique, in the sense of placing his instruments. 
Every instrument must be placed in the best relative posi- 
tion to obtain balanced prominence. For this reason the 


director should know how his music is coming through the 

Don Bestor spends a good deal of time listening in. This 
is Don Bestor's placement routine. The guitar is placed 
exactly two feet away from the microphone; the violins four 
feet away, sometimes three feet. Saxophones are drawn up 
close together, with the alto sax slightly to the foreground 
for tonal effect, some five feet from the microphone. The 
brass section has a variable spread changing their stance 
from nine to eleven feet, except during special interludes 
when the mutes are brought close to the microphone. The 
bass instrument is furthest from the mike about fifteen feet; 
the drums, thirteen feet. The piano is equidistant with the 

Chalk marks indicate the position each musician is to 
take. Vocal choruses come best over the air when the strings 
and the guitar move closer to the mike, and the brass is 
double-muted. After much experiment with four micro- 
phones to mix the tones, Don Bestor found results most 
satisfactory with one microphone elevated to a height of 
eleven feet from the floor. Music is always soft and subdued 
to conform with his style of dance music. 

Rudy Vallee calls the instrument "Poor Old Mr. Micro- 
phone as primitive as the man with the wooden plow. 
The former is at the mercy of the control engineer." 

"We who use it," said Rudy, "no matter how skilled 
through years of trying to get strength of receptivity (mind 
you, it gives no indication or sign as to whether it is even 
alive or dead) are often as surprised as individuals on the 
listening end to find we have ruined almost a whole pro- 
gram. . . . And when we have trios and quartettes then I 
give up! Here the difficulty is to find out which voice or 
voices are too close or too far away." The engineer's reply 
is quite fair. "You should know your distances and the 
strength of your voices," he says. He's right, but many of 


us don't, and oftentimes we feel a little stronger than at 
others, and sometimes the monitor himself changes the gain 
or strength of the current and we have no dial to indicate 
the receptivity of the microphone. 

To show just how helpless the networks are, let me tell 
you about a broadcast in which a girl-trio sang. To us, in 
the studio, they sounded fine. They sang for three minutes. 
These three minutes cost the sponsor, in radio time, seven 
hundred and fifty dollars (this on the basis of $15,000 for 
sixty minutes) . Then after the broadcast someone hap- 
pened to ask the engineer (he didn't volunteer it, mind 
you!) how the girls came through. Rather nonchalantly he 
said that the harmony was too close and that the girl who 
was singing the melody was overshadowed. This engineer 
was a very reticent man and, since most of them are paid 
to watch a dial and not to make suggestions, we would 
never have known that the girls were poorly balanced unless 
we had asked. The poor listener-in probably dialed out to 
find something more pleasing to the ear, but the unlucky 
sponsor, who paid the bill, was more sinned against than 
all of us. I've asked the engineers for something to tell us 
just what was going on even to lights over the microphones 
to signal: GREEN move in closer; RED move further 
away; BLUE fine as it is. 

The control engineer is no miracle worker of voices. He 
cannot be expected to beautify your tone by increasing the 
amount of current. There are at least three factors involved. 
First,, the distance of voice from the microphone. Second, 
the amount of current running through the microphone. 
Lastly, the voice volume of the speaker or singer. 

If your distance from the microphone is correct, but your 
voice too strong in volume, the control man turns the gain 
down to prevent blasting. This manipulation makes the 
voice sound unnatural, with a far-away quality. 

In her revealing biography, "Such Sweet Compulsion," 


Geraldine Farrar speaks soothingly of the efforts of Marion 
Talley. "This charming, but tenuous soprano's voice," she 
says, "was pushed to the amplified limit of large sound and 
the tonal beauty suffered in consequence, sacrificed to noisy 

On the other hand, if the voice is just correct in volume 
but the stance is too far away, any attempt on the part of 
the control man to bring it up by increasing current will 
magnify all the imperfections and generally produce a tinny 

The control man informs the production man by tele- 
phone or signals from his control booth how things are 
coming through the wires. He may signal the following 
blunders: (i) You are too close; your voice reaches the 
listener with a volume that may be blasting him out of his 
chair. (2) You are too far away (the poor listener strains his 
ears and wonders if old age is on him and if he needs an 
acousticon). (3) You are in bad balance (the harmony so far 
above the melody or the rhythm smothers both). 

An over-zealous publicity man once swore that Alex 
Weichew, the Fordham center, was so frightened by the 
microphone before he started to speak that he kicked off his 
shoes, gloves and threw imaginary passes to shake off his 

Many performers throw themselves into an energetic 
pantomime. Presence of mind is a gift. Gertrude Lawrence 
forgot the lyrics of the song in the middle of a chorus. She 
was magnificently equal to the occasion. She merely stopped 
the orchestra and asked them to play the song over again. 
She then hummed back into the chorus as it should have 
been in the first place. 

Radio has its unaccountable mishaps. Mrs. Roosevelt re- 
hearsed a program with Hendrik Willem van Loon on the 
WJZ program for an hour before they went on the air. 
Everything went smoothly until the bottom of page eight. 


Then Mrs. Roosevelt turned over to page nine. She was in 
consternation. Page nine had disappeared entirely from 
her script. She mumbled in obvious distress. Someone rushed 
up another page nine, and the broadcast went on smoothly 
again. Subdued whispers. She went right on reading and 
started through the top of page ten. 

The Engineering Department 

The engineering department is responsible for the cover- 
age of the station and the entire technical transmission of 
the program. The same is to provide the listeners with the 
highest degree of fidelity and accuracy of reception. 

In the studio, the studio engineer is in charge. He checks 
every microphone equipment. He opens the microphones 
and closes them as they are needed. He may blend them by 
opening the announcer's microphone simultaneously with 
that of the orchestra in order that the announcer's voice 
may be heard above the musical background. His particular 
duty is to "ride game," which term is defined as the main- 
tenance of proper value, a volume sufficient for the ear 
of the listener and yet not so loud as to destroy fidelity of 

The master control engineer has a duty which corre- 
sponds to that of a railroad dispatcher in a signal office. He 
sees that the programs are sent to their proper destination. 
He throws the switch which opens the wires for every new 
show, and allows for station breaks. This is a highly tech- 
nical job, which requires an expert knowledge of the mem- 
bers of their associated stations and their facilities. 

The transmitting engineer operates the highly sensitive 
radio unit, the transmitter, which actually sends the pro- 
gram out on the air. He is the last one to check on all 
broadcast matter and must hold a license from the federal 


The NAB, in its booklet, "Your Hat's in the Ring," issues 
the following injunctions to the speaker before the mike: 

1. Do not cough or sneeze into the microphone. Kate 
Smith once reminded an audience that two weeks back she 
had sneezed while on the air and within three days she 
received 5,000 post cards and letters saying, "Gesundheit." 

2. Avoid clearing the throat. 

3. Use your voice to reflect your sincerity, intimacy, 
knowledge, of the problem. 

4. Be friendly. That is radio at its best. Be sincere. Noth- 
ing is more convincing. 

5. You are speaking to people at home not in the con- 
vention hall. Do not yell your lungs apart. A conversational 
tone will win you listeners, a rasping expression will turn 
them away. 

6. When you are before the microphone relax. 

7. If you are one who needs a few interested people 
around to register reactions, ask friends to come in. 

8. Keep your lips moist. This avoids speaker's "dry dust." 

9. Have your voice checked (well in advance of your radio 
period) by the engineer. 

10. Speak into the microphone. Take a distance (at the 
start) of not less than two feet. Be guided by what the con- 
trol room engineer tells you. He is there to help you. 

11. If your voice is muffled and indistinct no one will 
hear you. Cultivate distinctness of articulation, without ap- 
pearing too pedantic by an over crispness. 

12. When you hold your written speech up, don't let it 
come between your lips and the microphone. 

13. Check your script-reading habits with the engineer 

14. As you finish speaking each page, drop it to the floor 
so it will cause no sound. The WOR research has perfected 
a soft paper that will not rattle. 


Microphone Positions 

A few simple directions constitute the actor's code of con- 
duct before the microphone: i. For average effects the radio 
speaker stands about a foot from the microphone. 2. For 
loud speech beyond that of the conversational level step 
back from the microphone. 3. Entrances are made about 
eight feet away. The level of volume is raised from very 
low to natural conversational tone as you approach the 
microphone. When approaching the microphone for this 
"entrance" effect, keep on talking while you're moving be- 
cause if you pause and your voice is heard from a greater 
distance, it will sound like that of another person. 4. Vari- 
ous modes are accomplished by changing the position or 
varying the delivery. In moments of excitation, stand at 
some distance from the mike, raise the pitch of the voice 
and speak more rapidly. For sympathetic effects, come closer 
to the microphone and lower the voice to a murmur. For 
the hollow quality of the ghostly laugh, "Ha-ha-ha," start 
some feet from the microphone and come up to it. Loyalty 
and self devotion speak quietly with kindly intonations 
close to the microphone. 


ANYBODY can announce!" 
This is the happy belief that has buoyed the hopes 
of an army of applicants from the earliest days of the micro- 
phone. Youth fired with imagination lost no time in explor- 
ing what seemed an easy way to fame. An alarming supply of 
announcers shifted from station to station. Nearly twenty 
years passed before the cult of the announcer was raised 
to the dignity of an organized profession. Today the net- 
works employ about three thousand announcers. 

October, 1938, marked an important date for the an- 
nouncer. It was then that the American Federation of Radio 
Artists signed an agreement with NBC which removed the 
announcer from the class of over-exploited radio employee. 
The contract provided that the senior announcer should 
receive $250 per month, while juniors should start at $110 
per month and be raised within two years to $175. Instead of 
exacting long hours covering a seven-day week, the contract 
called for a 44-hour week with two weeks' vacation after a 
year's services. 

An applicant for the post of announcer is often rudely 
shocked to discover his way barred by new standards and 
requirements. One no longer enters announcing as upon a 
lark. In truth Patrick Kelly, supervisor of announcers at 
NBC, warned that "announcing is one of the most exacting 
jobs in radio." 

Networks today will not consider an announcer unless he 
is a college graduate with at least two years' experience at 
a small station. He must be adept in ad libbing as shown by 
a test ranging from a five to a fifteen minute talk on some 

. 20 


topical event. A knowledge of continuity writing and pro- 
duction will be expected of him, and he must speak at least 
one foreign language. It is not everyone who, like Andre 
Baruch, can speak fluent French, Spanish and Italian, and 
in addition, creditably strike the native ear in Dutch, Flem- 
ish, and Portuguese. 

And if standards of announcing have become high, oppor- 
tunities have become narrower. The National Broadcasting 
Company has perhaps six openings for announcers a year. 
For these six openings hundreds of trained announcers audi- 
tion and the competition is naturally keen. 

The British have their own troubles in selecting an- 
nouncers, especially these war days. John Snagge, an official 
in charge of testing applicants, complained as late as May, 
1940, "Out of more than 2,000 heard only one man has thus 
far been chosen, and no woman has made the grade. Not 
one person in a thousand can read a news bulletin as it 
ought to be read it is too fast, too slow, too flat, or too 

The smaller stations have become the training schools for 
the announcer. At the smaller station, the announcer has an 
opportunity to be on his own as in the early days. He may 
be called upon not only to announce, but to create entire 
programs, assume charge of production, do the work of the 
engineer, display his gifts as a singer, double in brass, and 
carry on under difficult conditions. 

In the search for experience the applicant is faced with 
the stark truth that only by actual performance under the 
exigencies of the studio can the announcer be trained. Many 
colleges give courses in voice production and microphone 
technique, but theory alone will not avail. There is no solu- 
tion for the personal problem of getting that announcer's 
job on the small stations, which constitutes the experience 
that the networks demand. The problem remains much like 


that of the actor or the opera singer trying to get his first 

The English with some sense of humor have finally con- 
cluded that when the announcer has passed through the first 
experience he will emerge. He must be: 

1. Six feet in height. 

2. Acceptable to Hollywood standards of good looks. 

3. Possess a 24-carat voice. 

4. Speak eighteen languages. 

5. Be able to act as stand-in at a moment's notice in the 

6. Radiate charm, dignity, elan, verve, savoir faire, Je ne 
sais pas quoi. 

7. Have a brilliant individual touch in spontaneous talk 
while putting on transcribed records. 

From Anonymity to Fame 

The old announcer was as free as the air. He went off on 
his verbal rounds uncensored, impersonalized, bound by no 
restrictions and regulated only by his own sense of the fitness 
of things by the initiative of his own choice. Milton J. Cross, 
in the earlier days, announced himself as AJN. It was he 
who introduced Lindbergh on the air, and served as Mrs. 
Roosevelt's first host. 

The modern announcer is fortified with scripts, stop 
watches, assistants, and engineers. In the early days he was 
a factotum who had to struggle with every situation and 
emergency. He was station manager, market expert, political 
commentator, engineer, narrator of bedtime stories, lecturer 
on any and all subjects, program director, continuity editor, 
and host. 

Graham McNamee introduced himself as a concert singer 
when he applied for a job at the studios of the infant WEAF 


in 1922. He would broadcast a whole football game, rest 
for an hour or two and do a concert in the evening. 

Bill Hay, the perennial Amos 'n' Andy announcer, once 
taught piano and ran a radio store. For two years he read 
and announced his own program, with potato sacks for 
sound-proofing and open windows to admit the air on the 
now extinct KFKX of Hastings, Nebraska. 

Even as late as 1930, the age of specialization for the an- 
nouncer had not yet begun. Ford Bond recalls the routine 
of that period: "When I first started announcing for NBC," 
he narrates, "I came to work in the morning with no idea 
where I might be by night. We might be ordered to Florida 
or Canada without five minutes' notice, and we never knew 
whether we were going to announce a baseball game, a con- 
cert, or an endurance flight. But that's all changed now. 
We know every morning exactly what's lined up for us all 
day. The special events are all turned over to special an- 
nouncers who are authorities in their respective fields." 

The world's pioneer radio announcer was H. W. Arlin, 
an electrical engineer employed by the Westinghouse Elec- 
tric & Mfg. Co. of Pittsburgh. In 1917 he made his debut 
on the air on the company's pioneer station KDKA. Arlin 
had no precedents to guide him. Fortunately he was gifted 
with precise diction, and a resonant voice, sharp enough 
to clear through the imperfect conditions of transmission 
and receiving sets. The KDKA transmitting room was 
located on the roof of a nine story building. The studio in 
effect was a tent. In the spring the sides of the tent were 
rolled up so that the broadcast was actually an open-air 
affair. A bright light above the microphone illuminated the 
area. It was a test for any announcer to know what to say 
when a moth hovering around the flame flew into a tenor's 
widely opened mouth at the peak of a high note. 

The announcer soon emerged from anonymity. Listeners 
learned to identify the voice characteristics peculiar to the 


speakers. An audience for the intimate life of public per- 
formers had to be satisfied. A curious public wanted to 
know more about a man with a voice as friendly and as 
earnest as Milton J. Cross. When the true and full name 
of the announcer was released, he rose on the crest of pub- 
licity and became definitely associated with the station. 

The British clung more doggedly to the policy of keeping 
announcers entirely out of the limelight. It was only in 1936 
that the BBC relented and divulged the names of their 
leading announcers with a few details about their per- 

And there are those with us today who prefer that certain 
types of announcers remain forever in a state of oblivious 

The Free Lance Commercial Announcer 

Both station and sponsor were slow in realizing that the 
experience, knowledge and foresight of the announcer play 
a large part in the success of the radio production. 

The free-lancer usually has established his name and 
vogue on the networks and in some way called attention 
to his voice personality. In employing such an announcer 
the sponsor avoids taking chances with an unfamiliar vocal 

Announcers for the big commercial programs are not 
chosen because of their meticulous enunciation. The quali- 
ties sought are voice timbre, and an ingratiating style that 
is called "ear-arresting." Such announcers as Andre Baruch, 
Ken Carpenter, Don Wilson, Jimmy Wallington, and Ben 
Grauer, make themselves doubly valuable to their sponsors 
as actors in various roles. 

By virtue of emoluments alone, the free-lance announcer 
is in a class of his own. Removed from the routine of studio 
announcing, he is free to accept screen and transcription 
work, as well as offers from any sponsor. 


Sometimes accident plays a part in the discovery of an 
announcer. A man or a woman might be gifted with a voice 
personality that is exactly suited to a specific program, and 
that quality transmitted over the air makes him a "natural." 
Take the believe-it-or-not story told about Johnny whose 
monotoned "Call for Philip Morris" is familiar to all lis- 
teners. In 1933, Johnny Roventini was a page boy in the 
New Yorker Hotel. The traditional story is that a man came 
into the lobby, sat down in a chair and asked Johnny to 
page a friend. For five minutes the page boy paced the 
corridors and chanted his call. When he returned after fail- 
ing in his mission, he was told by the man in the easy chair, 
that he had passed an audition for radio. That man in the 
chair was an agency man for Philip Morris. 

Let there be any new program advanced by a sponsor and 
the agency will be on the lookout for the voice whose timbre 
conveys a geniality and warmth, a voice quite natural and 
yet with the touch of persuasiveness. Jimmy Wallington 
reflects the sponsor's viewpoint in this way: "Before an 
announcer can get a commercial program, he must build 
up on his sustaining broadcast a feeling of what I call 'good 
will' between himself and the public. His next duty is to 
sell the good will of the station he works for, and then, 
through the faith the public has in him he can sell his 
sponsor's product." 

The free-lance rise of Harry von Zell is ascribed to Paul 
Whiteman. Von Zell began his career as a full-time an- 
nouncer for a Hollywood station in 1930. Paul Whiteman at 
that time was making a picture and broadcasting at the same 
time with Ted Husing as his announcer. When Ted was 
called East to broadcast sports, Whiteman had to fill the 
vacancy. Three hundred announcers applied for the job 
and the task of auditioning seemed formidable. Harry von 
Zell, with heartiness and zest in his voice, led all the rest. 
Whiteman brought von Zell to New York where he gained 


popular recognition as a CBS staff announcer. So the 
agencies lured him from general announcing to the job of 
free-lance announcer for the important programs of Fred 
Allen, Phil Baker, Walter O'Keefe, Helen Hayes, and the 
March of Time. 

A background as varied as that of Kelvin Keech would 
stand the announcer in good stead. He graduated as an 
engineer, became entertainer on the Continental stage, 
directed his own jazz band, and broadcast over the BBC. 
From general announcing he was called to preside over 
such programs as Warden Lawes, Pop-eye, Fireside Recital 
and Billy and Betty. 

Beginning at WJZ in 1925, John S. Young joined NBC 
as staff announcer in 1928; was selected "all- American" 
announcer in 1929; gave the first course in radio technique 
at New York University in 1932; was the first announcer to 
be heard in experimental trans-Atlantic broadcasts and the 
first exchange announcer between England and the United 
States. He stepped out of the announcing ranks to supervise 
all radio activities of the New York World's Fair. As an 
announcer, John's voice is internationally known. In the 
early days of broadcasting, he was heard on programs sent 
out by powerful short-wave stations to Europe. When Pope 
Pius appeared before the mike for the first time, Young was 
the announcer on the American side. As for talents, he plays 
the violin, piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele and vibraharp; 
speaks French, German, Italian and Spanish. 

Voice Culture 

Radio is slowly building up the tradition that the an- 
nouncer shall unmistakably impress the listener as a man of 
true culture. The listener becomes conscious of the presence 
or the absence of the sign of refinement and good breeding. 
The sign is the voice. 


Carlton Andrews in a blasting letter to the radio editor 
of the New York Times flays those stations that employ 
announcers who lack the fundamental qualifications: "If we 
grant these invaluable licenses for no fee to commercial 
broadcasts, we are at least entitled to full assurance that 
their professional spokesmen in our homes shall be gentle- 
men of actual education and some degree of true modesty, 
whose manners are unfailingly courteous and considerate, 
and whose English is trustworthy and genuine and a fit 
model for the young." 

Announcers must at least speak one language and that 
is Standard English, which cannot by its nature display the 
warmth of a homey local dialect. In the selection of their 
announcers, the networks have settled the mooted questions 
of standard speech more decisively than the phoneticians 
who have never ceased to wrangle about it. It is safe to say 
that standard speech before the radio is speech which is 
intelligible to the larger units of population. In this sense 
it is not cast in a rigid linguistic mold. It is the compromise 
of the common tongue amongst hundreds of localisms and 

American speech is not a local speech. It is the composite 
tongue of a country whose borders stretch three thousand 
miles east and west. Many regions have their own peculiari- 
ties of speech. There is the sharp twang of New England, 
the gusty style of the West, the languorous open vowel 
drawl of the South. An announcer whose speech smacks of 
the peculiarities of any region may be perfectly understood 
in that region. It is standard for that region. If his voice is 
flung over the networks, the dialect may be unintelligible 
in many sections of the country, however picturesque. 

The British have their own problems with variations of 
English. Prof. Lloyd James, linguistic adviser to the BBC, 
once declared that if he were dictator of the English lan- 
guage, for announcer he would choose "the educated Scot- 


tish person, perhaps President Roosevelt, as an international 
standard for the English-speaking world. When I hear the 
voice of any announcer, I notice (partly consciously and 
partly subconsciously) four things about it. One is the actual 
quality of the voice; the second is the rise and fall of the 
voice; third, the pronunciation of the words; fourth, manner 
and style." 

Radio announcers may be divided into three classes: 
(i) cultured; (2) pseudo-cultured; (3) under-cultured or 
vulgar. The pseudo-cultured announcer gives the listener 
the impression of a superior soul who never quite releases 
himself from the role of a star performer. Sentences roll out 
with rich rhythms and requirements of sense give way to 
cacophonies. Carlton Andrews ascribes this manner to the 
ham tradition which radio has fostered. To the ear of the 
radio fan such pretense and affectation are often accepted as 
comedy effects. The announcer who talks as if he had a 
monocle in his throat is growing rare. 

The cultured announcer is more impersonal in delivering 
his message. He does not call attention to himself because 
of his peculiarities in speech or a manner unsuited to the 
occasion. He stands out as a man of culture because his 
culture does not obtrude. His diction is neither over-precise 
nor slurred. He knows the living language. He affects 
neither elocutionary airs nor vulgar deflections. 

Radio directors have stressed the importance of flexibility 
in the voice of the announcer. The most agreeable voice 
is adapted to the spirit of the occasion. A formal and dig- 
nified program will call for a just decorum in voice, but 
the announcer will have to change his vocal manner at a 
hilarious Al Jolson get-together party. If he puts crepe over 
his voice, he would soon hear from the fans. 

The aim of the BBC has been to create a sort of standard 
accent which would be dignified, understood by every one, 
and strike a happy medium between all the dialects spoken 


in the country. An advisory committee has been set up to 
decide on the pronunciation of difficult words. All the mem- 
bers of the committee speak good English, yet they can 
muster at least six dialects amongst them. 

It is no easy task to decide which pronunciation is the 
correct one. One of the words about which there was doubt 
was "capuchin." Listeners suggested there were fourteen 
different ways of pronouncing the word. 

Occasionally even the best announcers exaggerate the 
vocal touch. It is quite easy to influence people to tune you 
out by the use of the wrong vocal qualities. Howard Clancy 
who introduced Toscanini at the first of the NBC Philhar- 
monic Broadcasts almost accomplished this result. He spoke 
in a hushed and awed voice, as though the program were 
too stupendous for human ears. All this requires an intuitive 
understanding of the situation and an ability to use the 
voice to express the feeling and the meaning of the written 

Airing Your Personality 

Far more important than the mastery of studio rules, and 
the possession of a good voice, are the subtleties of per- 
sonality which the microphone reveals. The personality of 
the announcer is measured by his natural and acquired gifts. 
Education and experience are important but there are 
certain characteristics which seem to be born with the 

A director may be favorably impressed with a man's voice 
when he talks to him face to face, but when the candidate 
tries to get that voice through the loud speaker, it somehow 
loses its quality. It comes over dead and flat. It lacks the 
sparkle that makes microphone "voice personality." Surveys 
indicate that the lower tenor and baritone voices of the 
male register most agreeably. Occasionally a bass manages 
to capture popular fancy. 


The announcer's most important natural gift is his "voice 
personality." No exact definition of this term can be given. 
It might be described subjectively as a certain kindly and 
friendly tone which impels the listener to meet the living 
possessor of the voice. 

The United Press on March 28, 1939, reported one item 
that classically illustrates the power of the radio voice. A 
certain Mrs. Agnes Mae Watson of Dorchester, Mass., died 
and left $500 to Bill O'Connell, an announcer for the Yan- 
kee and Colonial networks. The attorney who contested the 
will on behalf of relatives claimed that Mrs. Watson had 
hallucinations and that "she had acquired an overwhelming 
passion, affection and love for Bill O'Connell." Counsel for 
the beneficiary countered that she was not mentally unsound 
but "merely a radio fan." 

The affection with which an announcer is held by his 
public may not go so far as to induce his listeners to leave 
him money bequests, but the regard is none the less genuine. 

Sponsored programs brought into being the "free-lance 
announcer." In a special sense, the free-lance announcer is 
a commercial attach^, a super-salesman acting for the 
sponsor. Today he is in the preferred class. The life and 
death of many a program depend on him. The station always 
provided the announcer for each commercial program at no 
extra cost, but the Agency accustomed to assembling its own 
talent, began to engage its own announcers and treated them 
as though they were performers or artists. The "guest" an- 
nouncer soon became a fixture. 

Atmospheric Announcing 

The most difficult task of the master of ceremonies is to 
establish the proper atmosphere for special programs, or 
extravaganza productions like the "Show Boat." Frank 
Mclntyre who assumed the role of Captain Henry of the 


Show Boat had to adapt himself to the art of the em cee. 
He gives this close-up of his method in Radio Guide: 

"I have to be master of ceremonies, announcer and actor. 
The master of ceremonies on a program like Show Boat 
must lend color to the whole hour, blend it together, with 
only his voice to help him. Here is the method I use. The 
band plays a hot number and finishes. I chuckle, and say: 
'So that was the King of Swing, eh Gus? I reckon that makes 
you the power behind the throne.' The next number is a 
romantic solo to be sung by Lanny Ross. My job is to make 
a transition from the mood of the band number to the mood 
of the solo. The orchestra begins the faint background music 
to introduce Lanny. I temper my voice to the mood and say, 
in a gentle dreamy tone: 

" 'Just sit back in your seats for a minute folks. Close 
your eyes and think of the things we all love to dream 
about springtime romance stars youth and moonlight. 
These are the things our dreams are made of and they 
are the things our handsome leading man is singing about, 
right nowl Lanny Ross, folks, singing "A Rendezvous With a 
Dream," Introducing Tim and Irene, I use a tone suited to 
the worthy and dignified number which the "Liebestraum" 
is. This is how you blend the parts of the program together 
and prepare the audience for what is coming." 

Beware the Diction Award! 

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences endeavored 
to aid and abet a better diction in radio announcers. In 1929 
the Academy established an annual medal award. By the 
time the fourth annual award came around the committee 
was ready to show its influence: "We have found the deci- 
sion more difficult for the reason that the general level for 
announcers has risen." 

Hamlin Garland, Chairman of the Committee for the 


Radio Diction Award, made known the criteria: "It is a 
mistake to assume that the medal for good diction over radio 
is for the best announcer. It is given for good diction on 
the radio. After all, we can hear only a few of the thousands 
of announcers scattered all over the States. What this medal 
means is that the winner has the hightest markings in articu- 
lation, pronunciation, freedom from local accent, freedom 
from strident or nasal tone and for general effect as to taste 
and scholarship. There may be announcers somewhere in 
America superior to the winner, but our committee is not 
concerned with hypothetical cases. 

"We are not concerned with mere popularity. Fluency, 
humor, picturesqueness of phrase, are all right in their way, 
but they do not enter into the competition." 

Formality Versus Informality 

The cult of announcers whose fetish was over-precision 
and exaggerated tonalities had succeeded in establishing a 
class distinction. In 1935 came a shift to the left in the 
campaign to inject more friendliness and naturalness into 
announcing. The radio editor of the New York Times, 
Orrin E. Dunlap, Jr., recently analyzed this trend: "An- 
nouncers have endeavored to sail a straight line between 
formality and informality in broadcasting, but have gen- 
erally found it difficult to get away from the formal side. 
Listeners strongly favor the informal approach, which they 
testify affords a welcome relief from the staccato, 'drama- 
tized' blasts of the errorless, trained announcer. 

"Today the trick is to handle the program with a natural 
flair that makes the unseen audience feel that it is almost 
present in the studio. To do that by reading what some 
one else has written is not easy, but there is evidence that 
it can be done." 

No announcer who has employed a formal manner to 


excess has long remained on the air. The listener is averse 
to the elocutionary skills of one who is using the microphone 
to show how pleased he is with his own voice. An over-smart 
precision which cuts consonants as if with a scalpel destroys 
the proper pace of conversation by the unusual and unvary- 
ing stress on single phonetic elements. 

Even the learned Professor Lloyd James takes a sharp 
critical attitude toward the over perfect announcers. As 
linguistic advisor of the British Broadcasting Corporation, 
and supervisor of announcers, he is in a position to under- 
stand the popular ear. 

"The chief point about the announcers is that they are 
all too slick they all sound too respectable," said Professor 
James. "I think one of the great problems is to reduce this 
over-refinement. There is no person in this world who sets 
his face against this so-called Oxford accent more than I do." 

The early success of Norman Brokenshire was due to his 
folksy manner. The audience was taken in by his jovial greet- 
ing, "How do you DO, everybody, how DO you DO." His 
voice had an intimate touch, a breezy quality that was 
intriguing, a manner imitated by scores of announcers 
without success. 

No one will deny that despite the arguments of the 
pedants, radio listeners really do not like the academically 
perfect speakers. They prefer an informal and "human" 
approach, even if the delivery is slightly defective. No one 
is advised, however, to set to work to become "slightly de- 
fective." It is all part of a natural manner. 

Clyde Fitch Harris, the pioneer manager of WHAS, evalu- 
ates the announcer in his "Microphone Memories": 

"The greatest gift of the announcer is an ability to create 
within himself a fourth dimension, without which a man 
may have mastered those other requirements, and by stop- 
ping there remain perhaps an acceptable announcer, but 
never 'tops.' Ears perceive with great acuteness and register 


upon minds a picture of the man himself. Listeners some- 
times call it personality, magnetism, or charm. Basically it 
may be any or all of these. But transcending them is that 
which in lieu of a better word, I call the fourth dimension." 

The first recipients of this award were: Milton J. Cross, 
Alwyn Bach, David Ross, John Holbrook and James Wal- 
lington. In 1934 the Academy skipped the award because of 
failing interest, which was again revived the following year, 
when the coveted medal was conferred upon Alois Havrillas. 

Critics have complained, however, that the effects upon 
speech instead of being salutary have definitely veered 
toward standardization. The whole clan of announcers 
imitate each other's style and in a sense have become the 
standardized medal voice of America. 

A note of protest comes from Columbia University. 
"American radio announcers who win diction prizes are 
poor models for speech students," says Prof. George W. 
Hibbett, of the English faculty. "The prize winners usually 
have an artificial mode of speech not characteristic of any 
section of the country." 

The temptation of the announcer to ape his successful 
fellow announcer is berated by Basil Ruysdael, who for years 
was a basso at the Metropolitan Opera House before he 
became a top-notcher on the networks. He unblushingly 
submits the routine of "how announcers get that way": 
"Eight or ten or twelve hours a day talking about every- 
thing from Iceland's fish to the latest war; copy handed them 
at the last minute; no knowledge of any product that they 
may be trying to sell; a parish class catching a boot from 
the president of the station down to the page boys; strug- 
gling with a limited vocabulary to encompass the simple 
pronunciation of the toughest language on earth What is 
the result? A 'style' developed from a core of contingencies 
and dismal, unrewarded monotony. 

"If an announcer is a 'weak sister/ " continues Ruysdael, 


"he will attempt to imitate the style of some more successful 
brother, and that is fatal, for unless a man is himself he is 
not sincere, and if he is not sincere he will not convince, 
he will not sell goods, including himself. 

"Unless a man has an analytical mind he will not get too 
far announcing, for there are no books to guide him, and 
no teachers to be had. This is written to try and make the 
new year a more tolerant one for a really fine class of men. 
I hold no brief for the style boys, the imitators and the 
pounders. Their stay is brief enough as it is." 

Blame for formalism in speech cannot wholly be placed 
on the diction awards of various private and public insti- 
tutions. If they have set false norms for over-ambitious 
announcers, they at least have done much to raise the 
standards of broadcasting. Deciding prize awards in the arts 
is always a matter of great difficulty, and at least as John 
Erskine says: "The result of such awards is helpful and 
stimulating because they are likely to help discussion. Dis- 
cussion that follows the award probably does more good than 
the prize." 

Small wonder was that the receipt of the diction medal 
became somewhat of a jinx. The point was reached where 
announcers dreaded being selected for the citation, and 
Dinty Doyle recalls that every announcer who ever won it 
subsequently suffered reverses: "Milton J. Cross, Alwyn 
Bach, James Wallington, John S. Young, John Holbrook 
and David Ross, all were doing all right, until the diction 
award was bestowed on them." 

Adaptable Announcing 

The announcer may not be master of his own voice. The 
sponsor may demand that he employ certain inflections and 
take on a vocal quality that is agreeable to the sponsor. 
Experiences show that the manner of voice may depend 


upon the type of copy. The classifications of voice styles we 
give are not intended to be complete but are intended to 
be merely suggestive. 

1. The punchy type: The staccato voice of high pressure 
in salesmanship. The effect is that of the pounding of a 
hammer. Each successive blow of the voice rivets the matter 
home. The punch copy generally consists of short snappy 
sentences. Andre Baruch heard in such programs as "J ust 
Plain Bill" and "Evening in Paris" is master of this style, 
in spite of which he advises: "I always visualize one or two 
people sitting in a home and talk directly to them. The 
more conversational an announcer can make his delivery, 
the better." What Baruch probably means is the conversa- 
tion yell. 

2. Smooth rhythms in voice: This style belongs to the 
intimate copy. The announcer gently and kindly insinuates 
that the listener's life is not complete without buying the 
product and that for his own sweet sake he must give it a 
trial, since it costs no more than the other kind and is much 
more effective. Think of the smooth voice of Ben Bernie 
gently high-hat, agreeably superior. 

3. The effusive and gushing type: This is affected mainly 
by women announcers beauty and cooking experts, fashion 
advisors, home makers. The same is true of many male 
announcers who have been air salesmen of women's wear 
and accessories. 

4. The rollicky laughter type: This is the most difficult 
trick in voice. Announcers generally do not feel funny 
enough to make their efforts seem real. The comedian who 
laughs at his own jokes as an air salesman often fails dis- 

5. The reverential tone: The tone is exalted, sometimes 
hushed and awed, but always winds up with the manner of 
one who will save our souls if we will only but let him. 

6. "You-dont-have-to-believe-me" intonation: This is the 


announcer who puts on the pretension of fairness permitting 
the listener to apply his own judgment. Such mannerisms 
are not the rule because sponsors usually prefer the dogmatic 

7. The sentimental quality: The voice takes on the flavor 
of wooing rhythm. Generally the announcer speaks to a 
musical background. Such dreamy quality is not justified 
by a sales message void of imagery. 

8. Over-precise, over-pedantic, over-careful approach: 
Such speakers articulate consonant sounds and separate their 
syllables as if they were proving they knew how to spell. To 
get the effect of such, announcers place particular stress on 
each syllable in the words: in-sti-tu-tion, of-ten. The average 
listener gets the feeling that such announcers are going 
' 'high-hat" and will fall over their furniture in their haste 
to tune them out. 

9. The corny, "Hello folks!" type, in the manner of Bob 

10. The thundering announcer: The sponsor hopes to 
give his program distinction by having his announcer talk 
louder than anyone else in radio. "You can't blame the an- 
nouncer for it," said Peter Dixon in one of his commentaries 
in the New York Sun. "Usually the announcer is acting un- 
der orders from the sponsor who seems to take great delight 
in having his sales message shouted." They hold the center 
of the stage and chew the scenery while they tear a com- 
mercial pattern to tatters. Eddie Thorgersen was probably 
the first of the bellowing school and through no fault of 
his own. Under orders, Thorgersen shouted forth the merits 
of a certain brand of cigarettes until he was christened 
"Thundering Thorgersen." Eddie grew to hate his job. He 
even worked long hours over-time in order to do another 
type of announcing on another program and a very pleas- 
ing job he did too. Though his bellow paid him well for a 


time, there was no job waiting for Eddie when he had fin- 
ished with that cigarette program. Finally he left radio, 
though you still hear but may not recognize his voice behind 
some of the news-reels. 

An Examination for Announcers 

Under Mayor LaGuardia of New York City, the municipal 
broadcasting station WNYC placed its entire announcing 
staff under the Civil Service. Applicants were required to 
take an extensive written test and the practical test before 
the microphone. In 1938 over a thousand candidates applied 
for the position and they sat down to a six hour written quiz 
from which a few of the questions follow: 

The best way to evaluate a radio program is to count the 
number of its listeners. Is this a valid statement? Why or 
why not? 

Every radio program should be an entity which is com- 
plete in and of itself. Do you agree? 

Radio action must be concerned with that which is 
familiar to the listener. Do you agree? 

Silence is one of the best of all sound effects. Is this a valid 
statement? Why or why not? 

List the methods of scoring used and the parts or intervals 
into which each of the following is divided: Football; 
hockey; basketball. 

Write a fifty-word announcement in introduction to the 
radio presentation of a typical Army-Navy football game. 

Can any radio program be entirely devoid of propaganda? 

State the nature of three amendments to the New York 
State Constitution which were approved in the recent elec- 

Name three functions of the Federal Communications 

Write a fifty-word announcement on the purpose of the 


Lima Conference in introduction to the radio presentation 
of a talk on Pan-American relations. 

Write a fifty-word announcement on the extent to which 
New York City has developed a public housing program in 
introduction to a talk on housing in New York City. 

Write a fifty-word announcement on the provisions of the 
new Wages and Hours Bill in introduction to a talk on in- 
dustrial legislation. 

Explain briefly the following musical terms: Oratorio, 
concerto, fugue, symphony, sonata, tone poem. 

Write a fifty-word announcement on Liszt suitable in in- 
troduction to the radio presentation of the Hungarian Rhap- 
sody No. 2. 

The second part of the examination tested the candidates' 
knowledge of English. The candidate was asked to define a 
list of words such as: Diapason, bucolic, spoliate, succinct, 
etymology, etc. 

A Test for Announcers 

A large part of broadcasting deals with music. You will 
therefore be asked to read material dealing with composers 
and their compositions. In an instant your familiarity with 
the foreign languages can be determined. Below is a sample 
audition given aspiring announcers by the Columbia Broad- 
casting System. 

"Among other prominent musical directors you will hear 
are Gustave Haenschen and his orchestra, the Detroit Sym- 
phony under the direction of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, featuring 
Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler as guest soloists. Ignace 
Jan Paderewski will accompany a concert featuring the 
phenomenal youngster, Jehudi Menhuin, while Ernestine 
Schumann-Heink will sing the Erl King of Franz Schubert. 

"Among the other composers you will hear are Jacob 


Ludwig, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Lud- 
wig von Beethoven, Charles Camille, Saint-Saens, Richard 
Strauss (the famous Till Eulenspiegels) Richard Wagner, 
Moszkowski, Cesar Cui, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Guiseppe 
Verdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, 
Christoph Willibald von Gluck, Gioachino Antonio Rossini, 
Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Arrigo Boito and Amil- 
care Ponchielli, closing with Hector Louis Berlioz, Friedrich 
von Flotow, Charles Francois Gounod, Ambroise Thomas 
and Alexandre C. L. George Bizet. We regret that we will be 
unable to present the works of Giacomo Puccini as they are 
at present under restriction." 

And finally try this bit of stuff judiciously prepared for 
aspiring announcers. Bob Cunningham, program director of 
KIOL, Omatya, devised a paragraph not intended as a 
standard test, but used mainly on staff announcers: 

"Some aspirants regard an announcer's audition as a 
chance for a coup; others with all the apparent symptoms of 
the ague. However formidable it may appear to be, it is best 
to enter into it with all the savoir faire at your command; 
much as an Irishman enters a melee to be enjoyed, win or 
lose. A bona fide announcer will do the best he can with 
words he doesn't know, and will try sincerely, even though 
he misses." 

Announcers might take lessons on tongue twisters from 
Harry von Zell. Every week a script writer pores through the 
dictionary hunting up tough words for Harry to read in in- 
troducing Fred Allen Wednesday nights. This is one sample: 
"Presenting that lackadaisical leviathan of laconic lampoon, 
laughter loving lullabies and ludicrous linguistic leap-frog 
and legerdemain, Fred Allen in person." Or try to race 
through this at the von Zell pace: "That rip-roaring rococo 
Romeo of ridiculous roguish rigmarole, rhapsodic repartee 
and romping roundelay." 

This has been going on all season, a new one each week, 


and so far Harry hasn't tripped once. The script writer 
swears he'll get Harry before the season is out. 

Try This on Your Enunciator 

(A sample of the type of test given to aspiring announcers 
by the Columbia Broadcasting System. Columbia says that 
the man who can handle it without mistake is a rare one and 
a well educated person.) 

"Judging by the demands made upon the modern radio 
announcer, that unfortunate individual must, indeed, be 
a perambulating encyclopedia or the ancient curator of some 
Atheneum, for whom the entire subject of belles-lettres has 
become the sine qua non of the intelligent citizen. What is 
more, he is expected to air his profound knowledge with the 
terseness of an apothegm and with the easy grace of a ro- 
mantic caballero. He must deliver himself of bromidic cliches 
with the same facility as of the profundities of the bel- 
esprit; perhaps, too, he must accede to the demands of the 
etymological efforts of some client who has used the roots 
of several classical tongues in the concoction of some bon 
mot with which to dub his superlative product. Although it 
has not been our aim to discourage the applicant, we might 
warn the esthetic aspirant that many months of the life of 
a broadcast announcer might easily hurl him into the very 
depths of asceticism." 

The Art of Ad-libbing 

Announcers are divided into two groups, those who read 
prepared scripts and those who are thrown upon their own 
resources on the instant. The announcers who broadcast 
the dispatches of the United Press and other news associa- 
tions are mere copy readers. 


Many well-known studio announcers, and among them 
David Ross, admit that their routine never requires them 
to ad-lib a single sentence. Jimmy Wallington shows ready 
talent as an ad-libber, and Ben Grauer of CBS has been 
tested in every situation requiring facile speaking without 

An important test is your ability to think fast on your feet. 
At any moment, you may be forced to speak extemporane- 
ously or to fill in a "wait" or a gap. An announcer may be 
able to read from a script perfectly but prove to be inept 
when faced with a special problem. The networks prefer 
those announcers who do not grope for words during an 

Through habit and experience an announcer should learn 
these rules of action: i, Think fast. 2, Speak smoothly. 3, 
Speak accurately. 4, Do not lose your head. 

In a Chicago studio Jean Paul King is announcing a 
homemaker's program in which Grace Gray is talking on 
home decorations. The lady commences to talk. She talks 
for about three minutes and then becomes faint. She sways 
and is about to fall. Well, what to do? 

This is what Jean Paul King does. He catches hold of 
Miss Gray's limp form with his left arm, and clings to the 
script with his right hand, speaks directly into the micro- 
phone, "As Grace Vial Gray was going to say ..." At this 
point the control man rushes from his booth to carry the 
fainting lady away from the microphone. 

The average staff announcer on the networks has been 
deprived of the privilege of ad-libbing. He has been reduced 
to the status of a mere reader. He may not even mention 
his name at will. He is furnished with a script and from 
that script he must not depart. Any variation from the 
script comes under the head of emergency announcing. 

Experience has made it possible for the networks to cata- 


logue the usual breaks. The announcer is provided with a 
manual which contains the exact words to be used for 
emergency announcing. Let us presume that the program 
fails to start within its allotted forty-five seconds of the sched- 
uled time: the CBS announcer, to meet this emergency, has 
but to turn to his manual which reads: "We regret that due 
to operating difficulties, we are unable to present immedi- 
ately the program . In the meantime, we offer ." 

Each broadcasting station has its own set of rules for the 
announcers but the regulations are much the same. An- 
nouncers must not attempt to be facetious. No puns, no 
wisecracks about song titles or situations. Analysis shows 
that the average announcer is very apt to become boring 
if he attempts extended ad-lib descriptions. The commentary 
furnished him is, therefore, limited to brief and concise 

It is regarded as poor showmanship to call attention to the 
closing of the program. Announcers are warned to avoid 
introducing a concluding number with phrases such as: 

"Finally the orchestra presents ," "In conclusion," or 

"Closing the program ," Better leave such finishing 

impressions alone. 

Certain other regulations might also be mentioned. The 
networks frown on the frequent use of "Ladies and Gentle- 
men" or the abuse of such trite phrases as "This time we 
bring you," "Now we hear" and "Now we present." Even 
during multiple-point news broadcasts, the announcer is 
urged to avoid such phrases as "Thank you, Mr. - ." An- 
nouncers must refrain, wherever possible, from referring to 
the period of the day. A New York announcer might be say- 
ing, "We present this afternoon," when it is still morning 
in California. The public for some unexplained reason is 
presumed to resent being reminded of this difference in 


Enter The New Radio Ringmaster 

The variety program brought into being a super-an- 
nouncer known as "Master of Ceremonies" which radio 
abbreviates as "em cee." The radio em cee is just a new ver- 
sion of the interlocutor of the old minstrel show, the chair- 
man of the English music-hall, the compere of the conti- 
nental music revue and the toast-master of the banquet hall. 

Radio has established new duties for the em cee. He tells 
the listener everything that in the theater can be seen with 
the naked eye. He describes the numbers, identifies the per- 
formers and sets the stage with the right verbal touch which 
enables listeners to "see." 

Earlier routines of the em cee were baldly to introduce the 
singer or performer and give the title of his selection: "Next 
Al Jolson will sing 'Mammy'." Someone conceived the no- 
tion that announcements in themselves might be couched 
in an entertaining fashion. Something brilliant and scintil- 
lating could be conveyed in a few words of introduction. A 
new routine required a line of patter and thus the em cee 
became a definite part in the pattern of entertainment. 

Translated into his new role under the exigencies of the 
variety program, the em cee became the suave butler of the 
air who ushers guest performers into the home with the 
happiest approach. Deems Taylor finds that the variety pro- 
gram affords the widest scope to the talents of the em cee 
because of its admixture of performers. 

The Discovery of the Em Cee 

Sponsors at first experimented with members of the reg- 
ular announcing group. Many of these announcers schooled 
in the artificial manner, utterly failed to vitalize the pro- 
gram. It was necessary to go outside the announcing field to 
discover new voices. 


Let us glance backwards a few years. The sponsor was 
slow to encourage his advertising agency to enlist the liter- 
ary man. An unusual gift of geniality and culture was found 
in John Erskine as em cee on the series of guest star pro- 
grams inaugurated by Katherine Hepburn over NBC. In 
1936, radio turned to Cecil de Mille, Rupert Hughes, and 
John McCormack, whom we shall consider briefly. 

The Lux Radio Theater and the Hollywood industry 
placed the toga of em cee on the shoulders of Cecil de Mille. 
Here was a man to be respected. Indeed the giant of the 
movies has a sincerity of voice, a quiet and calm that "gets" 
the listener. However, de Mille can make his words sound 
silly when he is constantly gushing over the charm of his 
performers, who in turn pay him the same fulsome compli- 
ments. Radio has fostered this oleaginous introducing of 
stars who call each other tenderly by their first names. All 
of this business is written into the script. This induces an 
overdone "folksy" attitude, and the em cee is soon suspected 
of playing false with the listener. 

Rupert Hughes in the role of em cee was not blessed with 
what radio producers call a good radio voice. But on the 
Camel program he made up for his lack of resonance and 
fresh quality by the fatherly manner of a genial host who is 
glad you are listening. Even when extolling the virtues of 
a cigarette, he has a genuineness, and that is what counts 

Let us identify a few prominent exponents of the art. 
Jimmy Wallington first came into national prominence as 
a dignified master of ceremonies presiding over short wave 
programs broadcast to Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his first 
voyage to the South Pole. In 1930, when recalled to New 
York by NBC, Wallington swerved from his duties as em cee 
to the career of straight man for Cantor, Chevalier, Benny, 
Jessel and other comedians. 

As for Rudy Vallee, he won his radio spurs as a crooner. 


He established a new personality as em cee on his own Va- 
riety Hour. Quite seriously, he cultivated his speaking voice 
until every word carried a sense of friendly intention. Every 
leading performer is identified by the phrase of greeting 
with which he opens the program. The first words must 
carry that warmth, the warmth which listeners would expect 
of their friends. 

In the free and informal manner of the em cee lies the 
danger of cheap wit, vulgarisms and undue familiarities with 
the performers. It is difficult to trace this tendency but Ted 
Husing in "Ten Years Before the Mike" ascribes it to the 
first attempts of certain radio characters to throw comedy 
into the bored American home. These were essentially par- 
lor entertainers, amateur comedians and philosophers and 
neighborhood celebrities. "Even New York City had one 
of them," explains Husing, " 'N.T.G.' of Station WHN, an 
ex-preacher named Nils Thor Granlund, and known to his 
friends as Granny. He clowned, read poetry in exaggerated 
ham fashion, insulted performers at the mike, and started 
the first phoney radio feud with Harry Richman, whom 
he introduced to the air." 

Not every species of em cee humor is understood by the 
radio audience. There are those who would be offended by 
Alan Courtney's manner as em cee on a WNEW program 
called "Din at Eight." Instead of following the old custom 
of praising all his artists lavishly, Courtney jovially insults 
them, brings them to the microphone in a shower of what is 
meant for good natured abuse and warns the audience. The 
masterful em cee like James Melton can sing, act in any role, 
make himself the foil for guest stars or comedians and build 
up the unfailing verbal bridges that link the performers. 

The average radio program is a pretty heterogeneous 
affair, frequently deserving the name "Program" only in 
that it begins and ends at a specified time. It usually man- 
ages to offer, in the space of forty-five or sixty minutes, an 


assortment of strange bedfellows that makes politics look 
like an amateur. Mix together an opera singer, a crooner, 
a jazz band, a few minutes of melodrama, a comedian, and 
a violin virtuoso, to say nothing of two or three sales talks, 
and you have something that brings to mind Stephen Lea- 
cock's immortal hero who "Mounted his horse and rode 
rapidly off in all directions." 

The task of the em cee is not simple. He must definitely 
blend all the numbers on the program with appropriate 
transitions so that the show builds up with a unified spirit 
and plan. Each and every part somehow becomes integrated 
with the entire production. The trick is achieved by racy 
dialogue between em cee and the performers. All this helps 
produce the "company" effect which intrigues the listener 
into the belief that its members are one family of enter- 

The Genius of Geniality 

What makes a successful em cee? The first and most im- 
portant asset of an em cee is geniality. His manner gives the 
audience the impression of the good fellow who will pat 
you on the back as if he had known you all your life, then 
will introduce you to the people with easy assurance. He 
somehow manages to say the right thing at the right time. 
It is for this reason that Bing Crosby with his lackadaisical 
witticisms quickly "gets the audience." He blends the parts 
of the program by the use of quick repartee skillfully studied 
to end in a gag line. When there is a comedian on the pro- 
gram the continuity is woven about the personal characteris- 
tics of the performers. It has become the custom to impress 
the em cee with the job of straight man. In such case, the 
problem of the em cee is to relate his method to the com- 
edian's style and to adapt himself as a stooge. 

A program which may be otherwise quite creditable is 
made ineffably dull by an em cee who is a third rate co- 


median. Instead of keeping the movement lively and ani- 
mated such an em cee succeeds in making it limp. The em 
cee who essays the comedy role must be to the manner born. 
A number of band leaders have climbed into public favor 
as em cees of their programs. Everybody remembers "Heigh, 
ho! Everybody, this is Rudy Vallee!" There is Horace Heidt, 
and Ben Bernie, and Paul Whiteman. Bernie and Heidt in- 
terrupt the music with repartee. Dorsey is a jovial conver- 
sationalist. Chatter unless it is pointed soon annoys. The 
average band leader should confine himself to his baton. 
Kay Kayser as a talking band leader has become one of the 
network's better comedians, but his quiz formula may soon 
fade. A band leader must decide whether he is a comedian 
or a musician. 

Humanizing the Program 

Today the em cee carries the burden of humanizing the 
musical classics of the world. This type of em cee is an added 
feature of even the most important musical concerts. The 
aim of such announcing is to take the great and near great 
in music and bring them down to the common level. The 
script calls for familiar joking, calling celebrities by their 
first name, and exposing them to a merciless badinage. A 
few of the mighty like Arturo Toscanini are spared this 
personal approach. Imagine what would happen to Bing 
Crosby if he congratulated Toscanini with a familiarism 
like: "Attaboy Arturo!" 

Al Jolson calls Deems Taylor "Deemsie" and Bing Crosby 
hails Toscha Seidel "Toscha" and the distinguished Ernest 
Schelling is dubbed "Uncle Ernie." This is an invitation for 
the musically great to cut capers around the microphone. 

The familiar attitude of the em cee has been referred to as 
a "humanizing method." In reality it often dehumanizes and 
at best is a vulgar kind of condescension that stands for 


humor and is supposed to make the masses feel at home with 
the artist. 

The sponsors defend such a method: "Dialers want to 
know the performers as real folks, and they enjoy them be- 
cause they are 'regular.' " The sponsor formula of making 
a performer "regular" usually consists in taking the artist 
off his high and mighty throne by having the em cee lash 
the performer with gags in a way that only radio will permit. 
For the moment dignity is surrendered and the artist is on 
the sponsor's level. 

The Em Cee as a Musical Commentator 

The very name of a music commentator should carry 
weight and authority. This implies that the commentator 
has not only an extensive technical background, but in addi- 
tion is able to interpret for a large public the significance 
of important creative works. Critics like Deems Taylor and 
Lawrence Gilman had already established themselves through 
their writings before the advent of radio. The new medium 
enabled the critics to spread musical appreciation to a new 
listening public that never bothered its head to read musical 
press notices. 

The music commentator can be most boring or most fas- 
cinating. Much will depend on his approach in voice and the 
selection of his material. It may be too much of an ideal to 
expect that he make his talks as enjoyable as the orchestra 

Deems Taylor, Chotzinoff, Damrosch and Black have es- 
sayed the role of em cee with distinction. Deems Taylor is 
Director of Serious Music at NBC and Samuel Chotzinoff 
occupies a similar position at CBS. 

Dr. Walter Damrosch, Director of NBC's Music Appre- 
ciation Hour, proved that technicalities could be reduced 
to the level of children and the most initiated listeners. 



Dr. Frank Black who once became commentator as well 
as conductor of his string symphony concerts declared: "I 
will not be technical, because I don't think music lovers 
like to be bored by the fact that triplet figures enter into the 
descending theme in juxtaposition to the inverted chief 
melody. I would like to tell them that in this spot, the com- 
poser tried to ape one of the good composers of jazz or that 
he may have gotten a little beyond his depth." 

The music commentator as em cee is setting new standards 
in music criticism over the air. The critic's judgment should 
be finely balanced. Criticism should not be synonymous with 
fault finding, as Deems Taylor puts it. He says, "He doesn't 
blame a waltz for not being a symphony and he doesn't 
abuse a street fiddler for not being a Mischa Elman." He 
emphasizes the merits rather than the faults of a composi- 
tion. In short, the music commentator must know the struc- 
ture of criticism so as to make the radio audience feel that 
he is just and fair in respecting everyone's taste. 

The method of Deems Taylor, ever since he appeared on 
the very first broadcast CBS aired in 1922, might be studied 
to advantage. He is perhaps at his best when he interprets 
the selections of the Philharmonic Orchestra from Carnegie 
Hall in New York. 

First, Taylor is a model of restraint. He abounds in in- 
formation without being pedantic. He gets down to earth, 
but never condescends. If he were to talk as a high and 
mighty critic he would fail dismally. It is a subtle art to 
spread the canons of good taste and yet leave the listener 
free to exercise his own judgment. 

Second, Taylor writes every word of the script himself, 
and from the deep fund of his knowledge he can draw on 
the right sources. He employs light material for his introduc- 
tions and then swerves into more serious discourse as the 
nature of the subject demands. All this implies the gift of 
selecting material that will both instruct and entertain. Tay- 


lor may spend from five to six hours on a twelve-minute 
script. Newsweek quotes him as saying that during these 
hours he "practically lives with a dictionary because 'the 
minute one makes a slip over the radio there are thousands 
who don't wait a minute to write about it'." 

Third, the fact that Taylor writes his own script enables 
him to adapt his style to his own mannerisms in voice. He 
may repeat a sentence forty times before he is sure it sounds 
completely casual and natural. Instead of hearing a learned 
man reading an encyclopedia extract, the listener catches 
the friendly voice of a man who neither poses as critic nor 
superimposes himself as commentator. 

What is the secret of this colloquial touch that seems some- 
how to engage the willing ear and confidence of the listener? 
In a recent issue of Stage, Deems Taylor himself discloses: 
"We don't talk as we write," he explains. "We use broken 
phrases, unfinished sentences, repetition. When I write my 
radio script I always talk it along. If I just wrote the thing 
it wouldn't sound right over the microphone. I can't sound 
convincing reading someone else's words." 

The Em Gee in Audience Anticipation 

Programs requiring audience participation demand the 
services of a director who at the same time must be a master- 
ful em cee. His success depends upon his spontaneous gift 
of humor, his play on words, a sparkle of sentiment, and 
above all on an understanding of the psychology of the indi- 
vidual. In this type of program is included the Amateur 
Hours, the best exponent of which is Major Bowes' Original. 

Not every announcer can go through the school of ex- 
perience which J. E. (Dinty) Doyle calls attention to in a pro- 
gram which originated at KFRC, San Francisco, some ten 
years ago. Each Monday night a two-hour show was staged 
known as Blue Monday Jamboree. The announcer who pre- 


sided over this Jamboree had unequalled opportunity to 
test his talent on a program which was composed of com- 
munity singing, spelling bees, bridge games, an amateur 
department, questions and answers, knotty problems, inter- 
views with movie stars and people prominent in the news, 
and of remote controls which sent men with mikes to gab 
with people in front of the entrances to San Francisco's 
famous hotels. 

The em cee should be cautious in the use of his adjectives 
especially if he is ad-libbing. Adjectives like great, magnifi- 
cent, extraordinary, carry great weight. Audiences resent 
such exaggerations in the face of a mediocre performance. It 
is a mistake to suppose the public is neither wise nor critical 
when the em cee builds up a very ordinary performer into 
a commanding artist. If such exaggerations are written into 
the script the em cee is in danger of losing popularity. You 
can't fool the people all the time. 

The humanized tone of the em cee should pervade the 
entire program. It keeps the microphone warm and glow- 
ing. The problem is to speak with enthusiasm and whole- 
someness so that what is being spoken becomes entertain- 
ment in itself. 

The Em Cee as Comedian 

The abundant use of gags by the em cee follows the device 
of vaudeville. In the theater the em cee filled the unavoidable 
gap between numbers when the scenery had to be changed. 
He kept up a steady stream of patter to keep the audience 
in good humor. Today the radio em cee is obliged to fill a 
similar function for the listener. While there is no scenery 
to be changed, often a new setting or mood must be created 
for the next performer. An artful touch by the em cee can 
provide the necessary contact between music numbers or 
various types of performers. 

The stock method of perfecting this transition is to fill in 


waiting moments with a mouthful of gags. Hence there has 
grown up the species known as the gag-type em cee. 

Radio Quizzes 

The unconquerable urge of a considerable proportion of 
the American populace to display its ignorance over a na- 
tion-wide hookup is one of the most mysterious phenomena 
of our time. It is comparable only to those little animals who 
insist on swimming out to sea and drowning themselves en 
masse. However, there seem to be more and more quiz pro- 
grams, with more and more people appearing on them. 

Listening to these broadcasts at home is well enough in 
its way, but most people suffer from a good deal of curiosity 
about these lambs going to their self-imposed slaughter. It 
is an experience to get some tickets and actually see the 
broadcast taking place. 

Some of it is pretty peculiar. On one quiz program an 
announcer comes out and explains that when he raises his 
hand he wants the studio audience to chatter "just like chil- 
dren in a school room," and when he wriggles his fingers he 
wants quiet. Everybody politely does as he asks. 

The contestants look calm or sheepish, or completely un- 
happy. There is generally one self-possessed man who doesn't 
know anything much but makes a lot of wisecracks at which 
the studio audience is encouraged to laugh hysterically. 
There is also usually one little Miss Smartypants who knows 
everything and doesn't make a spectacle of herself by gig- 
gling. The women in the audience view her with appro- 

Professor Quiz picks out a man from the crowd unaware 
of the man's communistic tendencies. Professor Quiz asks 
him rather grandiloquently: "And you sir what do YOU 
thing of the busses?" The answer brought gales of laughter 


from the crowd. It was: "De bosses de bosses you esk me 
about de bosses veil, I say quick DOWN with de bosses!" 

As an exercise it would be well to invent embarrassing 
moments like these and supply the quip or remark that will 
take the edge off any overbold or untoward utterance which 
is the taboo of radio. 

The men who handle the currently popular audience par- 
ticipation programs must think and talk with swift response. 
They are presumed to be masters of ad-libbing. 

Be prepared to meet this criticism of John B. Kennedy, 
the NBC expert announcer, which he made in a recent issue 
of The Commentator: "Half the quiz-program boys would 
astonish the listeners by their bewilderment if an awkward 
question upset the routine of their specious ad-libbing which 
is largely rote." 


A master of ceremonies should truly be master of the pro- 
gram. This sense of command is conveyed to the listeners 
by factors which are almost intangible. Listeners are moved 
by an easy, familiar manner in voice. Something about the 
speaker seems alive, sincere, delightful and refreshing. Every- 
thing he says springs from the spirit of the performance and 
gives the effect of closely co-ordinated entertainment. An 
over-assurance or cockiness will be immediately detected by 
the knowing ears of the listeners. 

Much of the persiflage that sounds so brilliantly spon- 
taneous on the Kraft program are the sentences that Carroll 
Carroll, the writer, puts into the mouth of Bing Crosby. 
This good-natured banter is the stuff the public gloats upon 
and if entrusted to another might sound rather terrible. 

Every type of program has its problems and situations. 
The born em cee easily adapts himself to the spirit of the 
occasion. Test your flexibility as an em cee by this exercise. 
Assume that you are Milton Cross. You have just been as- 


signed as the em cee of two children's programs. One is a 
nursery rhymes broadcast; the other is a Sunday morning's 
children's hour. Study your voice manner and your attitude 
in your approach to children in the studio with full regard 
to the listening audience. 

Circumstances alter cases. The eyes of the em cee must 
be everywhere. He must be alert while the program is going 
on, make allowances for "spread." Spread is the difference 
between running time at the dress rehearsal and the actual 
running time on the air. He may be obliged to cut his pre- 
pared announcement or ad-lib to fill in the extended 

Frank Mclntyre, who succeeded the unctuous Charles 
Winninger as Captain Henry of the Maxwell House Coffee 
Hour, offered this test for quick verbal counter: "One may 
drop a script, or read the wrong line. Then you'll have to 
cover it up. The script may have been corrected, and the 
new page thrown away instead of the old one. In fact, this 
is a way to test yourself to see if you have the makings of 
a master of ceremonies." 

The em cee who is also a leading performer on a variety 
program requires a specialized technique that cannot be 
trifled with. He must be magnetic enough to dominate a 
whole show and yet hold himself aloof at the right moment. 
He must be exuberant enough to capture interest and hold 
the interest until the program is over. With the authority of 
an honest performer he keeps the stage warm and glowing 
for the invisible audience. 

"Ideally," says Deems Taylor whom we must quote again, 
"the perfect radio announcement is one that is simple, clear, 
brief, amusing, conversational and persuasive. And try to 
write it!" But Taylor might have added, "Try and speak itl" 
for the perfect radio announcement must sound as if it 
were glibly rolling off the lips. 

The latest discovery is Clifton Fadiman, the man of in- 


finite jest, who propounds weighty questions to experts on 
"Information Please." Recruited from the book critic page 
of the New Yorker he won instant acclaim with all classes 
of listeners. Such men are naturals because they exhibit cul- 
ture, refinement and agreeableness without obtrusive sophis- 
tication. Since its inception Fadiman has remained the in- 
terlocutor of the show. 

Fadiman's gift is the gift of voice plus intelligence, wit 
and a communicating sense that catches the audience. He 
keeps talking about twenty minutes of the thirty minutes of 
the show, propounding a series of trick questions to several 
powerful minds whose ignorant responses create a giggle all 
over the country. That is a task by itself. 

A program like "Information Please," affords the chance 
for spontaneous skirmishes, light, quick, cutting comments 
and flowery phrases. Consider that evening on which John 
Gunther knew at once that Riza Pahlevi was Shah of Iran. 
Fadiman: "Are you shah?" Gunther: "Sultanly." 


THE first radio drama was produced in 1922. There fol- 
lowed a succession of broadcast plays, amateurish and 
abortive. Producers projected playlets or short dramas in the 
regular stage manner without respect to the limitations of 
the microphone. Over a period of eighteen years experiments 
have been made to achieve a new art form. 

Broadcast plays today may be classified as (i) adaptations 
of stories, (2) stage and screen plays and (3) scripts written 
especially for the air. The earlier productions were almost 
exclusively adaptations. 

Borrowing a leaf from film playwrights, the radio adaptors 
turned to established writers for their material. They con- 
structed air dramas out of episodes taken from such writers 
as Conan Doyle and Sax Rohmer and fell back upon the 
motion picture device of a "dissolved" in the form of a 
musical cue to link their situations together. 

Radio laid its clumsy hands upon the work of playwrights 
for inclusion in radio variety shows. Louis Reid said of Rudy 
Vallee that it took only fifteen minutes of radio boola boola 
to massacre the popular dramas of the stage. Condensation 
consisted of lifting some little scene and presenting it for 
fifteen minutes without preliminary action and characteriza- 
tion in the dialogue upon which it was based. It has been 
proved conclusively that radio cannot do justice in brief 
sketches of such stage plays unholily as "Dodsworth," "Val- 
ley Forge," "Laburnum Grove," and "Farmer Takes A 
Wife." The results were theatrically futile. It is difficult for 
the listener to warm up an imagination when a fifteen min- 
ute excerpt is flung on the air. An hour program permitted 



the adapter to include practically all the dialogue and scenes 
of the play. 

Established authors were reluctant to enter the field of 
radio drama. Octavus Roy Cohen was among the first maga- 
zine names to compete for air laurels. A few distinguished 
writers, intrigued by the new medium, tried out their in- 
ventiveness. Booth Tarkington wrote a radio script entitled 
"Maud and Cousin Bill." Tarkington considered radio as "a 
new way of painting pictures in the mind of an audience," 
and that is what the playwright and the novelist try to do 
with their other mediums. 

In 1934 radio drama became the new vehicle of T. S. 
Stribling, whose novel "The Store" won the Pulitzer Prize. 
He approached the problem with curiosity. The result was 
a radio series known as "The Conflict" which was an adapta- 
tion of an earlier novel of his dealing with the struggle of the 
ship lines. Stribling added nothing revolutionary to the 
radio drama form but recognized the necessity for serious 
study of the problem. He left the field with a solid prophecy: 
"I look forward to the time when radio drama will run for 
an hour or two hours, letting radio develop its own style of 
radio technique." 

The dramatist is just beginning to shake off his indiffer- 
ence to radio. Today many a well-known literary name is 
found appended to the script of a radio drama. Radio has 
added to its roster such names as Sherwood Anderson, Clif- 
ford Odets, Irwin Shaw, Stephen Vincent Benet, Norman 
Corwin, Alfred Kreymbourg, and Archibald MacLeish. 

Writers have been tempted by social problems of the day 
to do bits of propaganda drama. For "The Mobilization for 
Human Needs" campaign Fannie Hurst was prompted to 
write for the networks a playlet called "Society's Business." 
Irwin Shaw, in 1937, wrote a drama for the air entitled 
"Supply and Demand," a half-hour production over the 


WABC network. The play ventured into biting and ironic 
commentary on the food situation in the United States. 

The era of "pure" radio drama begins with the Columbia 
Workshop in 1936, under the direction of Irving Reis. This 
was the first experimental theater of the air which guaran- 
teed writers that their scripts would neither be revised nor 
cut. Reis began his career as a log engineer, but soon at- 
tracted attention as the author of a psychological script 
called "Split Seconds." An earlier work, "St. Louis Blues," 
produced in 1934, was a forerunner of the techniques he 
employed in "Meridian 7-1212." Reis has been called the 
apostle of drama through sound. His experiments demon- 
strated that the microphone could convey sound effects to 
build up drama in a way never before achieved. 

Sponsors are not interested in experimental drama. They 
discovered very early that it was far safer to use tried and 
tested Broadway shows that could be easily adapted for 
radio. The Lux Radio Theater, from its eastern stronghold 
in New York, swooped down upon the hits of Broadway, 
placing its reliance upon the lure of a smashing success and 
only upon actors who had the highest box office attraction, 
who were engaged to star in these productions. Attempts 
were made to cast the radio play with the original star, and as 
many of the original cast as it was possible to gather together. 
Plays were cut down to the conventional radio formula and 
adapted to the one hour commercial program. Only fine act- 
ing saved these chopped-up plays. Walter Huston did a 
memorable bit of acting as Nifty in "The Barker," Leslie 
Howard set a high standard as Peter Standish in "Berkley 
Square," Paul Muni lost none of his vigor in "Counsellor- 
at-Law," and Pauline Lord and Walter Connolly were just 
as intense as in their stage roles in "The Late Christopher 

To a larger extent than any other country England has de- 
veloped the aesthetics and technique of radio drama. Writ- 


ers of the stature of T. S. Elliot and James Hilton have 
written several experimental dramas. The British have been 
on the search for a new art form and were the first to con- 
clude that stage plays are not radio plays. Early in 1937, NBC 
was so impressed by the new creative methods that it bought 
four English plays for radio production. 

The old theory that radio drama was bound to accept 
limitations far more rigid than those that apply to the stage 
and screen has been abandoned by the English. They have 
achieved success in comedy and in historical and serious 
drama. Poetic plays like "Romeo and Juliet," romantic plays 
like "Hassan," epigrammatic plays like "The Importance 
of Being Earnest," character plays like "Doctor Abernathy 
His Book," biographical plays like "Goodbye Mr. Chips," 
war plays like "Journey's End," sentimental plays like "Ann 
and Harold," all have proved successful on the air. There 
is seldom a common factor in treatment or presentation, 
each play offering special problems. 

Radio as a means of presenting the classic dramatists has 
made a decided advance. The networks began to consider 
the classical and modern dramatists. In 1937, the Shakes- 
pearian cycle marked the beginning of the trend. A cycle of 
Eugene O'Neill plays, followed by George Bernard Shaw, 
indicates the agreement of distinguished playwrights to lend 
their plays for the culture and understanding of vast audi- 
ence groups formerly untouched by the influence of the 
theater. These plays are, however, at their best, condensed 
versions. A play is cut and revised on the Procrustean bed 
to get it within radio's time limits. 

Can Radio Actors Act? 

Radio acting demands a higher degree of skill and art than 
does the legitimate stage. The radio actor is beset with 
special difficulties that often phase the most capable per- 


former. In the studio, chalk lines and arrow marks around 
the base of the microphone serve as a guide to stance and 
distance. Seats along the side of the wall are occupied by the 
dramatic cast. Actors stroll to their assigned microphone 
positions only when their lines are reached. Such conditions 
break up the actor's mental approach in character and 
mood. On the stage actors have learned to sustain a mood 
all the while whether speaking or not. When the actor re- 
sumes his place at the microphone there is danger that his 
voice may sound artificial and unrelated to what has been 
spoken before. Even the most seasoned actor is influenced 
by lack of audience, applause, and surroundings of the legiti- 
mate stage. He must submerge himself in character regard- 
less of studio "setting" and sound effects. 

The whistle of the siren and the clanking of chains may 
throw him off mood. In addition, he is obliged to keep his 
eyes on the clock, and the man in the control room. There 
often arises in the mind a terrible consciousness that he is 
not being effective, and this feeling is often correct. One 
listener complained to the New York Times that actors 
bring about strange effects on the air. Weeping to him 
seemed like a waterfall, and laughter like a sound 
effect, and a whisper like a string of pauses surrounded by 
mumbling. To this general charge it might be said that 
everything depends on the actor. Some actors play havoc 
with any emotion; the real artist achieves results in voice 
that are unmistakable reflections of the mind and spirit. 

Nearly every important actor has his own set of micro- 
phone mannerisms. Many of them go through the same pan- 
tomime and gestures before the* microphone as they would 
on the theater stage. Gesture before the microphone helps in 
overcoming nervous tensions and mike consciousness. Lillian 
Gish in an O. Henry play had a line in which she an- 
nounced: "Wait 'till I take off my hat. There!" Her long 


training in stage realism impelled her to raise her arm and 
yank off her own hat. 

If the script of Bambi directs Helen Hayes through a re- 
volving door of a restaurant, she half whirls around the 
mike. She carries on through her entire program with ges- 
ture, facial expression, and pantomime, always keeping her 
eye on the printed page, following the script lest she lose her 
lines and the proper cues. 

No exact formula can be given for successful acting on the 
air. The actor's art is bound up with his personality and each 
part that he plays becomes a special study in achievement. 
Stanislavski in his work "An Actor Prepares" has evoked 
a psycho-technique which implies an excellently trained 
physical, mental and vocal apparatus. A seasoned radio actor, 
Clyde North, once advised: "In a true sense, the radio actor 
projects character over the air waves as he does over the 
footlights. When he transfers his training from the foot- 
lights to the microphone he may be forgiven for those first 
blunders which are common to first appearances." 

Certain principles of acting perhaps can be gleaned from 
the reactions of actors who have been called from one field 
to the other. Paul Muni, when called to do the lead in 
"Counsellor-At-Law" found radio a serious piece of business. 
"I didn't know what to expect," he confessed. "When I first 
saw the script and noticed how much of the original had 
been left out I was apprehensive as to the final result. All 
the nuances and all the embellishments that I had known 
on the stage were absent. I suddenly realized that there 
would be no facial expressions, no gestures, to lend it reality. 
But I soon got into the swing of it, thanks to the help of 
everyone who had a hand in the broadcast. It is just a matter 
of submerging one's self in the material and remembering 
nothing else while acting." 

Dialogue must have an intimate and conversational touch, 
if it is to sound honest. The radio actor must convey to 


listeners the illusion that they are eavesdropping upon a 
scene right out of life. This thought was summed up by 
Walter Huston when he said: "You can read a line one way 
and it will be honest. You can read it another way and it'll 
be a lie. You've got to be honest." The successful actor 
always gives the impression that he hasn't quite learned his 
part, and is ad-libbing as he goes along. Heywood Broun 
called this faculty "the illusion of the theater." 

Radio acting commands a quick, alert, and flexible men- 
tality, together with those physical gifts of voice which can 
interpret character in any situation. Character is made 
plausible if the actor thinks, feels, and strives in unison with 
his role. This requires talent and technique. 

Timing and cuing are vital. The smallest details become 
significant; the difference in two or three seconds in the 
length of a pause, a slight change of tempo, a highly nervous 
pace, a lagging or let-down, anything unnatural in expres- 
sion may mar a scene. 

Radio broadcasting stations are still crowded with the 
amateurs who have had no opportunity for professional 
growth or experience. For this reason George Abbott, the 
producer, holds that it is best for the networks to cling to 
the old saying that "the worst professional is better than the 
best amateur." 

The trained actor brings a power of interpretation that 
is totally lacking even in the best radio reader of scripts. 
Courtney Savage, former CBS director of plays, found that 
"in the creation of new roles, the actor with stage experience 
far excels the person without legitimate training. Actors of 
the legitimate stage slip into microphone technique with in- 
digenous ease. The rising stars of the air waves attack their 
programs with their individual personalities centered solely 
in their vocal chords." 

There still persists an "elocutionary" school of acting 
which the microphone has especially fostered. Walter Win- 


chell urged that Katharine Cornell quit trying to sound like 
a diction tutor. George Jean Nathan calls attention to the 
great difference between exact pronunciation and enuncia- 
tion and obviously painstaking exact pronunciation and 
enunciation. "The former is of course to be demanded," 
says Nathan. But the latter with its air of a student proudly 
and self consciously reciting a heavily learned lesson, will 
destroy the naturalness, ease and effect of any performance, 
however otherwise good. It is better, so far as the audience 
goes, to mispronounce and even badly articulate a difficult 
word than to speak it like a diction teacher giving a lesson 
in facial and dental calisthenics. 

In June, 1938, Orson Welles said before the National 
Council of Teachers of English: "The Mercury Troup has 
concentrated on delivering lines with as much clarity and 
as authentic inflection as possible. Emphasis has been placed 
on infusing the language with as much beauty as the actress 
can lend through voice and expression. Language never 
lives until it is spoken aloud." 

Shall Parts Be Memorized? 

Television may put an end to the reading of lines from 
a script. Actors will be forced to memorize their parts and 
carry on as on the stage. There are many old-timers like 
Jane Cowl who wish radio would permit them to memorize, 
but the microphone has no time for such proceedings. 
Why memorize for a single performance? Reading from 
the script has the virtue of saving the energy of actors 
and cutting down the time of rehearsals. Radio actors do not 
take seriously the announcement by the networks that they 
must memorize their lines, since such a rule, if enforced, 
would require greatly increased salaries. 

Maude Adams spoke her lines from memory, just as she 
did in the theater. There are few actresses so ably prepared. 


It is notable, however, that NBC tried to preserve the short 
dramatic phrasing of Maxwell Anderson's "Second Over- 
ture" by insisting that the actors memorize their lines so 
that they were allowed complete freedom of gesture while 
their speeches were picked up by microphones suspended 
over their heads. 

The custom of reading scripts brings with it the usual 
results of unintelligent reading. Somehow, when actors read 
from scripts, the effect becomes mechanical or too strenuous. 
Reading requires a full dimensional immersion in charac- 
ter. The capable radio performer with script in hand rarely 
gives any suspicion that he is reading from a script. Acting 
has been termed nothing more than re-acting. In reading a 
script, the actor never abandons the conversational contact 
which is the secret of realism. 

Many careless directors permit their casts to fit their lines 
together rather than to fit their expression into the scheme 
of the action so that these actors do not really talk or listen 
to each other, but merely read to one another. Listeners be- 
come aware that there is no contact between the mind of one 
actor and the mind of the other. To avoid these mechanical 
impressions requires constant practice in ear-training, so that 
the actor can give the listener the illusion of honest-to-good- 
ness dialogue. 

A trained actress can adapt herself to her role under spe- 
cial stress. Helen Hayes was called to the microphone to take 
the part of Margaret Sullavan in the leading role of "Peg 
of My Heart." She had never played that part before and 
went on the air without the benefit of any rehearsal and 
only one script reading. "Frankly I was never so frightened 
over a performance before," she said. "Please realize that 
for my previous radio theater role in 'What Every Woman 
Knows/ I had six days and sixteen solid hours of rehearsal." 

William S. Gillette was a master of naturalness in acting. 
He always gave the impression that he had not quite learned 


his part, ad-libbing as he went along. This is what is called 
"the illusion of a first performance." 

The test of naturalness lies in timing and the use of 
rhythms, inflections which strike the listener as "sincere." 
It is the natural reaction of the stage actor to protest against 
reading from a script. When Ina Claire appeared in three 
plays over NBC in 1937, she complained about the difficul- 
ties of translating her art from the spoken stage to radio 
without benefit of memorizing: "It is so difficult reading 
from a sheet of paper. I can't see why radio casts are not re- 
hearsed as we rehearse in the theater. They could give a 
better performance." 

Janet Gaynor, who made her debut on the microphone in 
the same year in a radio adaptation of "A Star is Born," 
suggested, like most air novices, that she memorize her part 
instead of reading from the script. This suggestion is gen- 
erally vetoed by the director. Players who have memorized 
lines become confused when necessary last-minute cuts are 
made. In addition there is the danger of a fumbled line, 
which while forgivable on the stage is fatal on the air. 

Voice of the Radio Actor 

The loud speaker does terrible things to the actor's voice. 
Even the most distinguished stars, who are the best examples 
of traditional acting, have failed dismally on the air. Often 
a false theatricalism creeps into the voice. The touch of un- 
naturalness is immediately detected by the listener when the 
actor seems to struggle to achieve unusual tonalities. Ethel 
Barrymore found it difficult to adapt her stage technique to 
radio. Her throaty attempt at over-emotionalism had much 
of the effect of the elocutionary art. 

Sometimes an artist tries too hard to put every nuance 
into boldest emphasis. Mary Pickford's over-explicit empha- 
sis succeeded in turning comedy into farce. Tallulah Bank- 


head, a personality in the theater and on the screen, brought 
to radio a voice that was regarded as hard, unfeminine, and 
lacking in the finer shades of interpretation. 

Many air failures arise from miscasting radio plays. The 
actor is lost in a leading role unsuited to his type. Mary 
Pickford's attempt in "Coquette" proved that heavy acting 
was unsuited to her. The seduction-murder theme was too 
much for her artistry and unsuited to her type. Her first 
offering, "The Church Mouse," was a sentimental comedy 
more agreeable to her manner, but her voice was undis- 
tinguished and critics commented on the slight fuzz in her 
enunciation, something just this side of a lisp. 

The microphone holds no guarantee for the revival of the 
reputation of an actress whose name was spoken in hushed 
whispers as a genius of the spoken stage. Maude Adams 
strove to weave the veil of enchantment that she had so suc- 
cessfully created on the spoken stage over the air. Something 
about "Peter Pan," however, could not be successfully trans- 
lated in sound, and the fantasy of the play did not get across. 
One critic called "Peter Pan" on the air tragically unsuccess- 
ful and although Maude Adams achieved something of the 
elfin whimsy, refined and genteel atmosphere, her efforts 
were not impressive, and after eight weeks on the air, her 
sponsors did not renew her contract. One likened her read- 
ing of "The Kingdom of God" to the vocal hullabaloo at the 
Grand Central Station in New York just before the Yale- 
Harvard Special pulls out. 

Lionel Barrymore, radio's leading impersonator of old 
men, has escaped from a stilted, artificial, and exaggerated 
style in delivery. For a more flexible and more interpreta- 
tive rendering, he advises: "We can't deliver a one-tone 
monologue on the air. No matter how dramatic the material, 
a pulse that is hammered too hard, even with drama, finally 
becomes impervious. Even horror loses its blood-curdling 


power if it is overdone. We have, therefore, to assimilate all 
of our being, all of our lights and shades into the voice." 

In spite of the best intentions of Orson Welles, his im- 
personations became too dramatic and noisy. A certain pom- 
posity in his actors created the feeling that they were trying 
to be arty. 

In spite of all the ballyhoo accompanying the production 
of Shakespeare and Shaw, there has been little change in 
the average run of plays on the air. The work of these play- 
wrights is born of the theater and not the radio. The next 
stage of development in radio drama is the creation of a 
repertory written especially for radio plus television require- 
ments to come. The poetic drama has taken on a new stimu- 
lus through broadcasting. That trio of poetic experimentists, 
Maxwell Anderson, Archibald MacLeish, and Alfred Kreym- 
bourg, have added much to the stability and maturity of the 
microphone plays. 

Many programs still deal with excerpts from the current 
successes. This vogue was introduced by both Rudy Vallee 
and Kate Smith, who included scenes from play hits as 
features of their Variety Programs. When all the excitement 
of the presentation of some important plays is past, the net- 
works go back to the same dramatic and comedy pattern as 
they had before. Trivial serials seriously hinder the appre- 
ciation of finer things in radio drama. Script shows like 
"Pepper's Own Family," "Big Sister," "Betty and Bob," are 
far more popular than Shakespeare and Shaw. 

The experimental theater has diagnosed most of the ills 
of radio. It is now up to the playwrights to apply their 
remedies. Radio drama will suffer from pernicious anemia 
as long as it continues to offer a surplusage of serials. 

The performance of Drinkwater's "Abraham Lincoln," 
displayed Orson Welles as a Lincoln who had a deep-sea- 
going voice that was trying to rival a fog-horn. The true 
humility of the Emancipator was missing in voice. The 


danger in such characterizations is that the narrator, who is 
also the protagonist in the narrative, misses true characteri- 
zation. It is as if a man were in love with his own voice and 
did not care to change it when stepping into character. 

Barrymore made the mistake of trying to double as the 
ghost in "Hamlet." As a result Hamlet sounded like the 
ghost, and the ghost sounded like Hamlet. Doubling in radio 
is a stunt even for the best actor. Jimmy Scribner as the full 
cast of "The Johnson Family" enacted thirty-two characters, 
but not without strained and curious voice effects. 

To fit into the picture the actor must give diligent atten- 
tion to his spoken lines through careful rehearsal. Even more 
care is necessary for microphone delivery than for the spoken 
stage. Leslie Howard, on his own admission, was a total fail- 
ure in "The Minute" on the Vallee Hour because he ap- 
peared without rehearsal. His rendition, indeed, was just 
a bit of unadulterated elocution. Some stars believed that 
rehearsing before the microphone was just a lot of fuss, but 
experience soon convinced them that the microphone is the 
most unerring instrument for determining their humanity 
in acting. 

Today the actor does not have to worry about his personal 
appearance when he comes before the mike. Burns Mantle, 
with brilliant irony, bespeaks the opportunity which Shakes- 
pearean revivals offer to players who can triumph by virtue 
of their voices alone: "A Falstaff who doesn't have to wrestle 
with a stomach pad to look the part of the barrel-shaped 
knight! A Rosalind who does not even have to be shapely! 
A Kate Smith, given the voice and feeling, could read Juliet 
as confidently as a Cornell or a Cowl. An angular ZaSu Pitts 
or a Flora Finch could do as nicely as Rosalind, other talents 
being equal, as an Ada Rehan, or even a Marlene Dietrich." 

A monologuist like Ruth Draper represents the acme of 
radio ability. In her repertory there are thirty-five mono- 
logues. Each calls for the delineation of a distinct character, 


and each one is different from the rest. This means that she 
has to adapt herself to thirty-five speech personalities; her 
rhythm, inflection, and general quality of voice must vary 
with each impersonation. It represents the highest degree of 
adaptation of the human voice. If the purpose of monologue 
is to make subacid but still polite comment on superficial 
manners, Ruth Draper heads the field. She has no rival. Her 
variety of tone, her technical control, her tactful lightness 
of touch adroitly suggest to the audience that even a scorpion 
may be tamed as a drawing-room pet. 

Writing for Radio 

A new deal seems to be in the offing for the radio writer. 
For nearly twenty years, with few exceptions, he was for- 
gotten in the fanfare of the programs he helped to create. 
Names of announcers, bandsmen, transient Hollywood stars, 
and other supernumeraries were exploited continuously over 
the air while the men and women who pounded out all the 
sketches, playlets, skits and dramas were left to toil in com- 
plete obscurity. The status of the writer was not that of a 
literary creator, but of an anonymous producer of advertis- 
ing copy. 

With the entrance of recognized authors into the field of 
radio, and with the growing development of specialized 
writing technique, the radio "by-line" will become an actu- 
ality not only as a deserving accolade to the radio author, but 
also as a direct encouragement to better efforts. 

The time still is when radio plays are dashed off m a day 
or two. In some instances it is reported that the copy has 
been furnished hot from the office pen while the actors are 
still standing before the microphone. How is it possible 
for an author to provide dialogue while on the run? Walter 
Huston, who appeared in the radio performance of "The 
Barker," claims that the power of the production lay in its 


perfected dialogue since the author had spent a year perfect- 
ing the play, traveling with a carnival and learning every 
quirk of the traveling tent. "The radio drama penned in a 
few days," he says, "fails to paint the picture. The imagina- 
tion doesn't have a chance to work," and Elsie Ferguson pro- 
tested "It is a shame that actors are held back by dialogues 
that are thrilling as a timetable." The author, then, should 
give close attention to dialogue that rings true and is very 

No amount of technical ingenuity can save a poorly writ- 
ten script, or the telescoped continuities that ignore charac- 
ter and hurry the action with almost unbelievable speed. 
The construction of a radio play demands an intimate 
knowledge of the author's chosen materials, and a careful 
selection from them. They aim to bring about a special 
friendliness or a temperamental kinship with the characters, 
as they are shown by their speech. In some way the drama 
brings a mental picture before the listener and words become 
translated into feelings and emotions. If the author does not 
provide the actor with dialogue that has this quality, a radio 
play cannot hope to be more than a dull affair in reading. 

Tradition has grown up that radio drama demands mys- 
terious techniques which are beyond the average writer. 
It is true that certain tricks of method have been applied to 
this art, but radio need not frighten away the playwright. 
The field is open to experiment. The principles of radio 
drama have remained the same from the very beginning. 
Radio merely takes these fundamental techniques and ap- 
plies them in a way different from stage or screen technique 
in which the physical element played a most important part. 

The veteran Owen Davis, author of over one hundred 
stage plays, and creator of the radio "Gibson Family," be- 
came a radio recruit without fear or trembling. "Radio," 
he advises, "is neither more difficult nor easy than writing 
a stage play. It all simmers down to what you say and how 


you say it. Radio has the same problems as Hollywood. There 
is no established formula for writing plays for stage and 
screen. There is none for radio. It is merely a question of 
knowing how to perform certain tricks." 

The old screen melodramas of 1900 involved techniques 
peculiar to the silent screen. The writer of continuity for the 
silent film sought to make the audience "hear" by sight. 
The problem of the radio dramatist is to stimulate the 
listener to "see" by sound. Film playwrights clung to plots 
which emphasized action, such as "The Wild Chase," "Rex," 
or "Burning Houses." When the talkies were introduced, the 
screen began to call for plays of character and situation 
rather than those of mere physical movement. In the same 
way, action and physical motion have been overemphasized 
in radio, while plays involving character development and 
emotional tendencies have been neglected. Many authors be- 
lieve that the most unconvincing thing on the air is violence, 
such as gun shots or fights, on which the success of the old 
melodramas depended. The deeper feelings such as tender- 
ness and affection, are more easily visualized than those 
climaxes depending upon sound effects. Effective dialogue 
paints a better mental picture than violent sounds. The 
whole business of radio drama technique is not elusive, but 
remains, first and last, theater. The technique of radio 
script writing, radio drama writing, is done by simple rules, 
but they require a deep understanding of human nature and 
what is appealing to the average man and woman. 

A situation or a character is more easily visualized when 
the listener is touched by the deeper emotions, monologue, 
self-sacrifice, jealousy. The imagination plays the most suc- 
cessful part in any broadcast. De Mille calls the proper use 
of dialogue the fertilization of the imagination. 

Radio plays, like the movies, sought their success by ad- 
hering to their "young boy meets girl" formula. At their 
best, they remain glorified stories of "hot" writing. It is for 


such a reason that Arch Oboler, sickened by the mechanical 
production of his sketches for Irene Rich's show for nearly 
two years, finally resigned. 

Special Problems 

Early radio dramatists were faced with the problems of in- 
dicating a division between scenes. The three methods of 
bridging in use today are (i) the use of sound effects which 
give the listener a notion of change of scene through syn- 
chronized sounds; (2) the method of the commentator who 
lays the scene; (3) the narrator who is, in effect, something 
of the Greek chorus; (4) musical bridge which employs 
background music appropriate to the action. 

The musical curtain, now employed practically univers- 
ally is attributed to Dana Noyes and Howard Barlow, 
formerly Columbia's musical director. Noyes and Barlow 
introduced a brief musical interlude between scenes in "The 
True Story" broadcast to indicate the passing of time and 
the change of setting. Variations of this device are to be 
found in the Eno Crime Club Series, where a gong is slowly 
struck three times between each scene. 

The modern playwright has the advantage over the Eliza- 
bethan dramatist. The theater-goer today is provided with 
a program which tells him of the changes of scene and of 
the passage of time and of anything else which the play- 
wright regards necessary for him to know. Elizabethans had 
no programs. Radio drama can take lessons in technique 
from the technique in transition out of Shakespeare. Shakes- 
peare used devices for conveying information about lapses 
of time and shifts in locality by means of dialogue. In the 
same manner dialogue serves to identify characters, antici- 
pate or recapitulate events in order to make the action clear, 
stress the significant, show the responsiveness of other charac- 
ters in the play, one to the other, bring in testimony and 


messages of ghosts, and provide the narrator with the func- 
tion of chorus prologue and epilogue. 

The radio playwright should be guided by certain prin- 
ciples which experience has proved: 

1. Writing for the masses requires a theme which will 
strike the widest appeal. An author must express himself in 
terms which will be understandable by the greatest possible 
number of listeners. In theme and in treatment, therefore, 
he will aim to touch what is immediately satisfying to the 
mass mind. Specialized treatment of plays as found in the 
experimental drama cannot hope to reach the minimum 
audience of approximately two million people listening in 
constantly. A play that attracts only one hundred thousand 
reaches out for only one-twentieth of its potential audience. 

2. The most complicated problem of writing radio drama 
is that of identification. The legitimate stage employs light- 
ing and scenic effects which impress the audience through 
the eye. The radio dramatist relies solely on visual images 
created solely by the dialogue spoken by the actors and the 
sound effects made to order by the technicians. Hence, the 
radio dramatist should deal in images which are easily recog- 
nized. The author indulges in swift, quick characterization 
and can fasten this characterization on the listener by the 
selection of simple characters and situations. The first five 
minutes of a radio drama are regarded as vital. It is generally 
considered that if an audience cannot picture a character 
and catch the drift of the action within these five minutes a 
radio play will drag along in a muddled and confused way. 

3. Irving Reis calls attention to the "here-comes-so-and- 
so" school of exposition, which should be avoided. He warns, 
"It is dull and sloppy to establish a character in this obvious 
fashion. The writer must be inventive and devise in his 
scripts fresh and arresting methods of starting off the charac- 
ter's locale and plots." 

4. Experiments prove that a writer may use as many char- 


acters as he likes in a radio drama. The important principle 
is never to have more than three characters bear the brunt 
of any scene. Listeners can hold only so much at one time. 
Voice is the only guide by which the audience can see a char- 
acter, and if that particular voice comes into the scene in- 
frequently, it places a strain on the listener to identify it. 
Many plays are ruined by a babble of voices, none of which 
is fastened to a particular personality. 

A character may be perfectly clear to the writer and yet 
be perfectly obscure to the listener. Dialect helps establish 
a character. It is by this element of the voice that the radio 
dramatist must rely upon the actor, but he must provide him 
with that mental stuff which can engender the highest form 
of expression and interpretation. John Erskine evaluates 
voice in the radio drama thus: "One loves voices, voices that 
convey the suggestion of pleasant personalities voices full 
of character, that bespeak a whole page of description." 

The author must spend some time in justifying and ex- 
plaining his characters before they seem real to the radio 
audience. Put yourself in the listener's place, and see what 
sort of reaction your character creates. After that, the story 
can begin to move. Epithets, voices tender and ennobling, 
voices that stand apart by intense contrast from the gruff, 
mean, savage and violent speech of the villains, voices 
clashing in battle or intertwined in love. 


Not any one can write radio drama. Even the established 
writer must give ear to the radio and use his critical faculty 
in analyzing serials, one-act plays comedies and dramas from 
the standpoint of sound. The beginner in this field will 
profit by a good course in narrative and dramatic techniques 
which are fundamental to plot construction. The crux of 
the whole question of successful radio writing lies in the 


ability of the writer to think in terms of sound. George P. 
Ludlam, continuity writer for NBC advised: "The best place 
to learn how to write is beside a radio set. The playwright 
who keeps that in mind is in little danger of going wrong." 
Transitions, effects, climaxes all depend on sound. If the 
writer can hear his show in his mind and is satisfied with it, 
the chances are that he has something worth while. It does 
not matter how dialogue looks in print, it's the sound that 
counts. A few bars of thematic music transport the listener 
through time and space in a second or two. A few bars of 
thematic music span the centuries or transport the listener 
into another world. The writer takes advantage of the swift 
and sweeping transitions in time and place that radio affords. 
It is a matter of training to establish for the listener, the 
time, the place and the characters. George P. Ludlam also 
offers this injunction: "The listener must never for a mo- 
ment be left in doubt as to the scene of the action or the 
identity of the characters engaged in conversation." Although 
this takes deft writing, it's quite simple when one under- 
stands the requisites. 


Instead of an art, the work of adaptation was regarded as 
an unimportant hack job. The work truly calls for the best 
skills of the trained playwright and an intimate understand- 
ing of the reaction of the listening audience to characteriza- 
tion and dialogue. The adaptor has a special task of reducing 
the short story or novel to its elements and then analyzing 
and reassembling its separate parts. He has the special prob- 
lem of keeping the tone of the play consistent with the 
original story and at the same time so construct his dialogue 
as to convey the impression of real people. 

Some critics regard the adaptation of a play to radio as a 
trick in method rather than as an art. Condensing requires 


the nicety of a surgeon who can extract a heart from the 
drama without destroying its unity. There are several prin- 
ciples in adapting that are almost uniformly practiced: (i) 
The radio script is shorter than the average stage script and 
is comparable to the one-act play; (2) Radio will permit un- 
limited flexibility in play form since it places no limitation 
on the length and number of scenes. It can enlarge on or 
compress any situation and the scene can be disposed of in 
a few lines of script. Change of time and place become al- 
most instantaneous; (3) The most popular adaptations are 
those of stories or plays depending mainly on plot and action. 
Plays which depend upon sophistication of dialogue offer 
special difficulty in adaptation. It is easier to handle frank 
melodramas whose guiding motto is "Twelve minutes and 
a scream"; (4) The adaptor must turn the very limitations 
of the microphone to good advantage. To this end the adap- 
tor should be familiar with the unusual effects in voice that 
give the illusion of reality. 

Many presentations have been ruined by the extreme com- 
pression of plays within a period of thirty minutes. A two- 
hour play cannot be cut successfully to twenty-five minutes 
and still retain the flavor of the original. The high tempo 
and rapid fire dialogue common to most adaptations only 
succeed in emasculating the originals. 

The adaptor has the task of switching scenes, cutting and 
pruning the lines, making changes in the action to employ 
proper sound effects and create the illusion of time and 
place. The principle followed in cutting is to highlight the 
main theme and gloss over the improbable and probable 
sub-plots. Burns Mantle criticized the Shakespearean stream- 
line performances as being not even directly or remotely 
compared to the stage plays. "But," he adds, "they were cer- 
tainly a great deal more than platform reading/' 

Max Wyle, continuity editor of CBS, in his lectures on 
radio writing at New York University stresses the principal 


errors in script writing: (i) deficient story interest; (2) failure 
to develop a story after getting it started; (3) the abuse and 
improper use of sound effects; (4) writing about situations 
with insufficient knowledge. Radio technique in his opinion 
is not as important as story technique: "Most people who 
can write the story can be taught to write radio," explains 
Mr. Wyle. "If it's a good story, even though the script be 
spotted with technical mistakes, we can turn it into a good 
show and usually without very elaborate repair work." 

The tendency for most amateur writers is to write about 
situations they have observed only in the movies. The pre- 
cipitate young writers who live in Alaska create stories about 
Florida night clubs, and innumerable young people fresh 
from the colleges weave their stories in settings about which 
they know little. The young girls of the middle west essay 
the gangster problem of New York. Geographical areas of 
course have no bindings on the imagination, but the aspir- 
ing writer is urged to avoid distorted pictures by handling 
material with which he is unfamiliar. Wyle continues his in- 
junctions to the amateur: 

"We might say that if sound does not clarify a piece of 
stage business; if sound does not emphasize or fix a spoken 
line; if sound does not intensify atmosphere, it does not 
belong in the script. Never use a sound cue to indicate the 
physical action of a character unless the action is already un- 
der way or the intention already known. 

"We can set down another rule too: Never use adverbs 
or adjectives in a sound cue unless those adverbs and adjec- 
tives qualify either microphone perspective or sound vol- 
ume. Never use the word 'denote' in a sound cue. If the 
sound, of itself, does not denote what it is intended to de- 
note, it is no good." 

The outlook field of writing is growing brighter. Writers 
who have earned their livelihood in all the other branches 
of writing, are now turning to radio to try their luck. In 


the past glaring and scientific errors were committed too 
often. Today elaborate research departments are maintained 
to assure authenticity. Specialists like Raymond Ditmars, 
the zoologist, and Paul de Kruif, bacteriologist, have been 
called upon to eliminate blunders. 

The space of an hour is required as the norm for the pre- 
sentation of radio plays. An hour permits time for practically 
all the dialogues and scenes. In most instances, the stage 
business and intermissions can be omitted. A listener can 
make sense out of a play that runs an hour. It is difficult 
for him to warm up an imagination when a fifteen-minute 
excerpt is flung at him. Many of the hour-long programs 
have been extraordinarily appealing to the listener. 

Streamlined Experiments 

During the summer of 1937, D th NBC and CBS engaged 
in the experiment of producing Shakespeare. This period is 
known as the Monday Evening Battle of the Bards for both 
networks chose the same hour and the same day to educate 
the masses in the less familiar plays of Shakespeare. The 
rarity of Shakespeare on the air is due to the belief that the 
multitudes could not endure Elizabethan drama. The net- 
works decided to enter upon this artistic venture in spite of 
the limitations of the twelve-year-old mind audience. It 
was estimated by Alton Cook that the Fibber McGee and 
Molly Program, commanded a fifty per cent larger audience 
than the two Shakespearian productions on the air at the 
same hour. 

Columbia executives estimated over seven million five 
hundred thousand listened to Edward G. Robinson in 
the "Taming of the Shrew." NBC offered a series with 
John Barrymore and his wife in what has been termed 
streamlined Shakespeare. The plays offered by CBS brought 
a number of principals from Hollywood who had their first 


opportunity to play Shakespeare. Burgess Meredith, hailed 
by the critics as the Hamlet of 1940, essayed the role of 
Hamlet. Edward G. Robinson became Petrucchio. Lionel 
Barrymore wept with the pathos of the venerable King Lear. 
Leslie Howard brought wit and ardor to Benedict. 

To Cut or Not to Cut 

Streamlined Shakespeare is the term by which Barrymore 
characterized his cutting of the plays to fit the exigencies 
of the microphone. "Hamlet," as penned by Shakespeare, 
runs five hours on the stage. For the stage, Howard and 
Gielgud, cut it to three. For radio, Barrymore reduced it 
to forty-five minutes. In effect, Barrymore's condensed ver- 
sions were merely tabloid impressions of the action. There 
was much dramatic slicing and with more than two-thirds 
of the text lopped off, only the genius of Barrymore stepping 
in and out of monologue saved the experiment. Sound 
effects and musical embellishment painted the psychological 

Barrymore employed the Greek device of a narrator who 
sets forth to the radio audience the argument of the play 
before reading the lines. Only the more dominant scenes 
were selected, and these were enacted in full with appro- 
priate music, to form tonal backgrounds equivalent to visual 

The rival network, CBS, entrusted to Brewster Morgan 
the eight Shakespearian plays. Even the most expert play- 
wright would be phased by the job of telescoping the parts 
of "Henry IV" to fit into an hour's entertainment on 
the air. Mr. Morgan succeeded in compressing six thou- 
sand seven hundred and sixty lines of the original folio 
into one thousand six hundred lines for a one-hour pro- 
duction. All this had to be done skilfully without injury to 
the heart of the drama, with a clear understanding of the 


listener's response to movement, clearness, and unity of 
action. Shakespeare is ideal for radio. The playwright had 
all the devices for conveying information about lapses of 
times and shifts in locality by means of the dialogue. 

Another experiment of note is the First Person Singular 
method of Orson Welles. Orson Welles, a youngster with an 
amazingly big voice, rapidly rose to importance in the the- 
ater by his experiments in classic plays like "Julius Caesar." 
Radio had already known him by his eerie, vibrant voice 
as "The Shadow." In the summer of 1938, Columbia Broad- 
casting Company offered him its Summer Theatre of the 
Air for nine weeks' dramatic experiment. And so the Mer- 
cury Theatre transplanted itself from the stage to the micro- 

Let us engage ourselves to the method of Welles: Welles 
decries the use of talk to set the stage. He says, "There is 
nothing that seems more unsuited to the technique of the 
microphone than to tune in a play and hear an announcer 
say, 'The curtain is now rising on a presentation of . . .' 
and then for him to set the stage, introduce the characters 
and go on with the play. The curtain is not rising at all, 
as everybody well knows, and this method of introducing the 
characters and setting the locale seems hopelessly inadequate 
and clumsy." 

This conventional technique of radio drama has nothing of 
the personal approach of the true theater. The First Person 
Singular technique provides for a narrator who as the story- 
teller is presumed to bring more intimacy to the dramatic 
broadcast. The listener responds with a close intimacy when 
the narrator immediately makes himself part of the action 
and begins: "Now this is how it happened." Welles made 
no undue claims for his innovation. He regarded the new 
technique as merely an experiment in microphone drama 
and experiments are better than consistency to old forms 
designed for the stage. 


Welles made a startling impression with "Dracula." His 
adaptation of novels suffered from the crowding of too much 
plot into a single hour. On occasion, as in "The Thirty-nine 
Steps," the drama was told almost entirely in the first person, 
which makes the program referred to as, "I, Orson Welles." 

The Grip of the Serials 

Radio serials are called script shows or strip shows. The 
first title implies that actors and actresses read their lines 
from carefully prepared manuscript. The second name is 
fastened to such programs because they adapt the technique 
of so-called comic strips printed each day in the newspapers. 
The inspiration for plots and ideas comes from popular 
novels, plays, motion pictures and cartoon strips which are 
already familiar to the public. On the air such characters 
as "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," "Alias Jimmy Valen- 
tine," "David Harum" and "Stella Dallas" carry on from the 
point where the book or play left off. Their adventures 
appeal with added interest to those listeners who already 
know the central characters. 

Chicago holds the honor of mothering the first day-time 
serials sometime in 1928. By virtue of the fact that soap 
manufacturers of the Windy City fostered them, the serials 
to this day are called "Soap Opera." And for this reason 
too, one listener suggested that the networks are certainly 
cleaning up with their oleaginous productions. 

Infinitely various are the emotions which the serials play 
for the purpose of amusement. One type develops stories 
which stimulate a sense of power. Such serials invite their 
listeners to identify themselves with a gallant, successful 
criminal or with the detective or hero who thwarts him. 
Other stories deal with terrible adventure and give pleasure 
to the listeners through the emotion of fear. To this class 
belong the thrillers. Another large group stimulates the 


listener's desire for adventure and the hope of taking part 
in scenes as unlike as possible his own dreary formula. The 
serials constantly unearth certain emotions of the listeners. 
They arouse and discharge these emotions in make-believe 

Mrs. Elaine Sterne Carrington is one of the outstanding 
serial script writers. "All my scripts," she confides, "are 
written so that listeners can imagine themselves in the same 
situations as the people in the cast. The daytime serials fill 
a tremendous hole in lonely people's lives. Listeners take 
the characters to heart and suffer, live, love and laugh with 

Such synthetic sorrow and suffering pour from the micro- 
phone as to render the heart strings and loosen the purse 
strings for a wide variety of products. About the only thing 
missing is the moustasched villain who holds the mortgage 
"poipers." On a given day it is possible to hear the anguish 
of a crippled lad suffering a beating from a strong brat, 
the tearful pleas of a patient begging a doctor to operate 
on a hopeless case, and the hysterical cries of a woman on 
the verge of a nervous breakdown. Intermingled are shat- 
tered romances, innocents charged with murder and pitiful 
eternal triangles. 

The serials constantly spur the emotions and the listener 
thus aroused discharges them in make-believe situations. 
Most listeners are worried about love, money and business. 
As a type of "escape fiction," the serial carries them out of 
the humdrum through the triumph of character in tight 
situations. The listener may shed tears and have his heart 
wrenched by the course of events, but always he will in some 
way feel appeased by the enactment of the episode. 

Radio serials are the re-embodiment of the serials of silent 
films. They follow the same laws of interest and suspense. 
In the early screen days stalwart heroes such as Eddie Polo 
and Charles Hutchinson invariably triumphed over das- 


tardly villains. A heroine such as Pauline met peril from 
week to week unflinchingly, as she was left hanging from a 
cliff, or rescued from a burning building. Here the appeal 
was to the eye, and the visual representation of each episode 
was measured with gripping suspense so as to bring the 
movie fan back to the theater for the next episode. Simi- 
larly, the plot of the radio serial is left hanging day by day. 
The imagination, bestirred by the ear and not by the eye, 
has its foundation in the personal interpretation of the 
characters, each of whom is keenly etched on the mind of 
the listener as to appearance and surroundings. The radio 
serial has gripped the attention of listeners with amazing 
hold. Millions enjoy that vicarious thrill of romance and 
drama which comes within their personal measure of expe- 

From twenty-two stations alone twenty serial stories pour 
into the ears of the listeners every week over the networks. 
The primary effort of such programs is to sustain interest 
through suspense and climaxes which challenge the listeners' 

From the brain of Carlton E. Morse, a former writer of 
blood and thunder radio dramas, sprang the case study of 
"One Man's Family," the Harbours, an average American 
family with adolescent children. In April, 1932, the program 
made its debut on KGO, San Francisco, and the following 
year came to the ears of listeners as the first West Coast 
serial to have nation-wide sponsorship. Today it remains in 
the front rank of the hundreds of flimsy little playlets heard 
on the air. 

The Script Formula 

The formula for air serials has been tested by time and 
not been found wanting. First, the characters must be dis- 
tinctly lovable and human, and awaken broad sympathy in 
the listener. 


Most of these scripts are success stories of the unsuccessful. 
"Just Plain Bill," for instance, in his humble calling of 
barber, is always in financial difficulties. "Lorenzo Jones" is 
an inventor whose efforts while practically futile, through 
continued zeal, command the listener's warm regard. Serial 
characters make a real success of their lives by endearing 
themselves to the folk around them. 

Second, their actions should be believable. To this end 
nothing illogical or inconsistent with character may be dwelt 
upon. Hummert, the idea expert for many serials, explains 
why. He says: 

"The listener has a way of placing himself in the boots 
of his 'mike' favorites and looks for a definite line of action 
to which he would respond under certain situations. It is 
really uncanny how the fan who follows the radio serial 
will detect any inconsistency or flaw in character." 

The hero must retain high principles and can not sud- 
denly turn into the villain. If drastic changes are made in 
character, protests pour into the broadcasting studio. Even 
the death of a character may be regarded as inconsistent. 
The death of Clifford's wife in "One Man's Family" brought 
down the wrath of hundreds who regarded her decease as 
unjustified by fate. 

A less objectionable form of the serial is the comedy script 
which brings joy to many a masculine heart. Among these 
are the perennial "Amos 'n Andy," "The Goldbergs," 
"Myrt and Marge," "Easy Aces," "Vic and Sade." 

The story of the Goldbergs is the story of the great Ameri- 
can melting pot with all its early scenes set in New York 
City. Molly Goldberg has a clinging philosophy developed 
in girlhood which helps her through the years as she and 
Jake, her husband, climb to a near-affluence which pulls 
them through the depression. Gertrude Berg, creator of the 
Goldbergs, in 1937 reputedly entered a million dollar con- 
tract with the Procter and Gamble Company of Cincinnati 


to star in the series over a period of a year, five quarter-hour 
episodes weekly. 

Almost at any hour of the day you can pick out a dramatic 
serial from comedy to melodrama to mystery designed to 
appeal to mothers and wives while they do their household 
chores. Often the commercial demands for serials is so great 
that they are put on the networks. 

"Vic and Sade" who began their air career in 1932, is 
one. In the Gook family, Vic is the boyish minded father. 
Sade is the typical small-budget housewife, who has her 
hands full with her man and her inventive, chattering 
semi-spoiled son whose name is Rush. The family lives in 
a "smart" house half-way up the block, and America's heart 
can throb with arguments about "Beef punkles" and "Lim- 
ber Scharm" cheese. 

Third, the serial should convey a representative picture 
of everyday American life situations that are realistic. The 
essential "realism" of the Barbour family impels listeners 
to remark: "I am sure the author must be someone who 
knows our family. That very thing happened in our home." 

Once when Alice Frost, who plays the leading role in 
"Big Sister," caught cold in one of the episodes, her personal 
fan mail reached new proportions. Her radio "cold" was so 
real that listeners sent their favorite cold cures to her. Nor 
is it uncommon for stations to receive gifts to be forwarded 
to the members of the "Barbour family" on their "birth- 
days" or for Christmas. 

The Blacket-Sample-Hummert Advertising Agency spe- 
cializes in serials and has established a "script factory" for 
their production. The headquarters of the "script factory" 
is situated in Connecticut at the home of Frank Hummert 
and his wife, Anne, where both dictate their ideas to a 
battery of stenographers. A large force of writers whips the 
ideas into dialogue form, and every line is carefully edited 


by the Hummerts to guarantee that speech befits the 

Before the advent of the Radio Writers' Union, Mr. and 
Mrs. Hummert claimed authorship of most of the scripts, 
although they were written by anonymous hacks whose 
average pay was the pittance of $5.00 per instalment. The 
Hummerts dictate to their string of authors exactly the type 
of cheap tabloid fiction which they have found makes the 
most money. Any initiative or imagination shown by a 
writer is quickly destroyed by such a plan since a successful 
program pays the same wages as a mediocre one. 

The Hummert mill produces 50 serial scripts a week, a 
total of some 6,500,000 words a year. In their Greenwich, 
Connecticut home Frank and Anne figure out the trends 
of their serials four to six weeks in advance, dictate outlines 
to stenographers. Outline for an episode (Backstage Wife) 
may read something like this: "Suspecting that Cynthia Val- 
court murdered Candy Dolan with Ward Ellman's gun, 
after Tess left the flat, Mary, Larry and Ward rush to Tony 
Valcourt's penthouse to have a talk with Tony and Cynthia, 
having sent Tess Morgan to her apartment. Arriving at the 
penthouse, they are refused admittance by the butler. . . . 
If Cynthia gets away, Tess may take the rap for the crime. 
Can they save her? . . . What will Tess do?" 

When a script is finished by the ghost writers it goes to 
an adjunct of the Hummert mill known as Air Features, 
Inc., for production. No Hummert ghost may even stick his 
nose inside Air Features' production studios. 

By hiring dialogue writers, and not creators, the Hum- 
merts save lots of money. Most serial writers in radio com- 
mand $200 to $400 a week. For The Goldbergs, Gertrude 
Berg gets about $2,000. The Hummerts pay a minimum 
$25 per i5-minute script. 

Among the serials they have conceived and produced for 
radio are "Just Plain Bill," "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage 


Patch," "Our Gal Sunday," "Lorenzo Jones," "Stella 
Dallas," "Second Husband," "Alias Jimmy Valentine," 
"John's Other Wife, "David Harum," "Popeye," "Mr. 
Kean, Tracer of Lost Persons" and "Backstage Wife." Their 
success is measured by the seventy-five million letters re- 
ceived from fans each year. The Hummerts' shows have been 
on the air for as long as eight years without a change of 

Crime and law enforcement are vital themes to attract 
male listeners who go beyond the homey and folksy appeal 
of the afternoon serial. The "Gang Busters" dramatizes 
actual crimes in a semi-narrative and dramatic method. Law 
enforcement officers, such as Lewis E. Lawes, of Sing Sing 
Prison, have been enlisted to lend an authoritative touch 
and moral tone to such programs as "Twenty Thousand 
Years in Sing Sing." 

In his more recent broadcasting, Edward G. Robinson 
is cast as a hard-boiled newspaper editor in "Big Town." 
He has an audience among the thirty-minute entertainers 
exceeded only by Jack Benny. Robinson is the protagonist 
who exposes the rackets and cracks down on the malefactors. 
So credible is his script and his acting, that he has actually 
stirred up civic responsibility of officials in many communi- 
ties. "Big Town" is one of the best examples of the three 
requisites of serial writing. First, each episode is complete 
in itself. Second, the story is credible. Third, the dialogue 
is fast moving. The authors of Robinson's serials have been 
Courtney Ryley Cooper, Arthur Caesar, Arch Oboler and 
Art Holden. 

Many popular novels have furnished the basis for the 
serializations of the five-times-a-week broadcasts. Their em- 
phasis is mainly on the psychological approach rather than 
on violent action. The best artists have consented to appear 
in the serializations of novels, even though critics have 
deemed the vehicle unworthy of their art. Helen Hayes was 


engaged for "Bambi" which was chosen not for the millions 
in the big cities but for the vast scattered population of the 
rural areas. In the hand of a lesser actress the words would 
have been less meaningful, but Helen Hayes did the best 
possible with none too engrossing situations. 

An actress in radio is not concerned about the vehicle 
which is provided for her. Helen Hayes justifies her appear- 
ance in serials thus: "This serial is literate," she said. 
"It has clever lines and its characters talk like people. Be- 
sides, who is Helen Hayes except to a group that follows the 
Broadway theatre?" The theory is that if the sponsors are 
willing to lavish the talents of one of the greatest actresses 
of our generation on a trivial playlet, the public ought not 
to be ungrateful enough to object. 

Once a show catches on, the loyalty of listeners is almost 
beyond belief. They will send in box tops by the thousands 
to insure the continuation of their serial drama. 

Helen Menken is the serial queen of the air. Her adven- 
tures in "Second Husband" are more dangerous emotionally 
than physically, but the same pattern of climax is followed 
as is found in the more hectic gangster episodes. Always the 
question is asked at the end: "Well, what will happen next 
time? Tune in again on Monday, and . . ." 

The plot element and dialogue have something of the 
nature of the pulpwood type of printed fiction, and the 
slushy analysis of frustrated women plays on the heartstrings 
of a world of feminine listeners. 

"Second Husand" is homey and leisurely paced. The story 
concerns a young widow, dressmaker of a western mining 
town, who with her two children bravely faces the world, 
wins the love of a rich easterner, and becomes Broadway's 
most celebrated actress. 

Helen Menken describes her first appearance in the role 
as akin to groping in the dark without knowing what reac- 
tions she would create. She need not have had any qualms 


about the sure-fire success of a serial. The whole affair has 
been characterized as kindergarten stuff for an actress of her 
attainment. Without her subtle coloring of voice, the con- 
ventional characterizations would have fallen flat. 

Serial writers are guided by one injunction: "Take care 
of the climax 1" Every device known to drama is employed 
in the effort to sustain interest through suspense. If the 
climax is weak the episode must be bolstered up. Many 
writers first fix on the climax. The climax can always be 
made hair-raising. The "suspense" formula is easily handled 
by the writer. A dilemma is introduced on Tuesday and is 
solved on Monday. The climax is reached on Friday, for the 
listener must be left in a dither of excitement on that day 
so that there will be sufficient interest to carry over the 
week-end recess. 

A radio serial fan was impelled to pen this complaint to 
his radio station: "Carroll Kennedy has been kidnapped. 
A burning house has fallen on 'Big Sister.' 'Aunt Jenny' 
leaves a poor girl in a vacant house with a drunk. 'Helen 
Trent* is shot at, and 'The O'Neils' lose a crook through 
an open window. And nothing can be done about it all till 

Often the climax may present a psychological crisis. 
Sketches like "One Man's Family" and "The House of 
Glass" disclose the intimate soul-reactions of familiar types. 
We are regarded as a nation of eavesdroppers, ever alert to 
find out what our next-door neighbor is saying. 

The more popular serials are stories about everyday 
people who are forced into quandries that awaken the 
listeners' keen sympathy, and appeal to the common liking 
for that which seems genuine and thoroughly human. Un- 
usual events and experiences strikingly out of the ordinary 
have their appeal because they take the listener away from 
his own humdrum existence. Many serial programs have 
captured the daily expectancy of a laugh through their 


subtle touches on humorous situations enhanced by smart 
dialogue, and unexpected complications. 

A strong protest is being voiced against the cluttering up 
of the air with these serials. The charge specifically is 
i. These shows are too commercialized. 2. There are too 
many of them. 3. They are too much alike. 4. The daylight 
stretch is out of program balance. 

The average time for commercials on a fifteen-minute 
program is two minutes, forty-five seconds. The average 
time for the actual plots in the sketches is eight minutes, 
forty-five seconds. The rest of the time is consumed by 
synopses, summaries, theme music and contest announce- 

The National Council of Women and the General Federa- 
tion of Women's Clubs organized a "We're Not Listening 
Campaign." The agitation soon blew over. It was stated that 
women of superior financial and cultural advantages were 
assuming a crusading role on behalf of the "D" and "E" 
grades who had no desire to be saved from the serial menace. 
They wanted to be left alone to sob in peace, and not be 
regaled by talks on book reviews and dramatic criticism. 
Radio answers the hue and cry of the club women by assert- 
ing that the pulpwood fiction is the natural mental level 
and proper showmanly approach to the homes of two thou- 
sand dollars and less income, or the mass market for soap, 
and boiled fats. 

Mrs. Wilfred Winans, President of the Woman's Club of 
New Rochelle, expressed it: "We would like more good 
music, book and play reviews, information about health, 
child care, gardening, home decoration, a balance of the 
practical and intellectual. Health should have a definite 
place on programs where the listeners are home makers." 
So the struggle goes on. Women may cry out for discussions 
on domestic and international affairs, health, nutrition and 
the like, but they continue to be served with the maudlin 


drivel of the serial. They will stand for light skits like "Vic 
and Sade" to help them view their own domestic problems. 
The American family, according to Mrs. Elaine Sterne 
Carrington, has five big problems in common. And they are 
here set down, because they are based on the mail she 
received from all parts of the country: 

1. Should the sixteen or seventeen year old boy or girl 
be permitted to use the family automobile? 

2. Should children be given an allowance or be paid for 
chores, such as cutting the grass, shoveling snow or milking 
the cow? 

3. Should youngsters be given a latchkey or should the 
family sit up and wait for Johnny to come home? 

4. How late should the sixteen or seventeen year old 
Mary stay out in the evening? 

5. Why cannot a boy decide for himself whether he is to 
go to college or go to work? For example, if a young man 
wants to be an airplane pilot why should his parents insist 
that he follow another career? 

The Radio Debut of Poetic Drama 

The failure of the average poet as a poetic dramatist arose 
from his isolation in his Ivory Tower, far removed from the 
lives and language of the masses. Radio compelled the 
dramatist to get down to earth, because it deals with mass 
entertainment. It remained for Archibald MacLeish to create 
the first play in verse for air productions. Produced in the 
spring of 1937 under the direction of Irving Reis of the 
Columbia Workshop, "The Fall of the City" was acclaimed 
as the first real dramatic classic of the air. 

The plot of the play is significant. It portrays the coming 
of a dictator to a free city and his enslavement of its popu- 
lation. A dead woman speaks from her tomb to warn of 
the coming of the conqueror. An announcer from a high 


strategic post above the city square, bespeaks the fear and 
panic of the multitudes below him, and communicates the 
news of the conqueror's impending arrival. Other voices 
utter forebodings a statesman, an old general, and a priest, 
each in his own way. Dawn draws near. The masses are 
terrified, obsessed by the fear of the loss of their liberty. 
The conqueror enters. The crowd casts away its weapons 
and grovels in the dust. Only the announcer sees through 
the emptiness of the conqueror. There is nothing inside the 
armor of the conqueror, his brass headpiece is empty, and 
the crowd has been vanquished by its fears alone. 

In MacLeish's scheme of poetic radio drama, the an- 
nouncer becomes the most useful dramatic personage since 
the Greek Chorus, whose function was and is to anticipate 
events, to interpret events, and to excite the emotions. 

Written dramas for the stage have always felt the necessity 
of some sort of commentator. "The commentator is an inte- 
gral part of radio technique," said MacLeish. "His presence 
is as natural as it is familiar, and his presence without more, 
restores to the poet that obliquity and perspective, that 
three-dimensional depth without which great poetic drama 
cannot exist." 

MacLeish believes that the radio techniques are perfectly 
adapted to the poetic method. Writers of prose plays for 
radio have practically ignored the tools which poetic drama 
affords. They write for radio as they would write for the 
stage. MacLeish regards the absence of television as an 
added opportunity for the playwright: "With the eye closed 
or staring at nothing, this has every power over the air. 
The air accepts and believes, accepts and creates. The ear 
is the poet's perfect audience, his only true audience, and 
it is radio and only radio which can give him access to 
this perfect friend." 

Although "The Fall of the City" was heralded as a mile- 
stone in the art of broadcasting, many manifest faults 


marred its understanding. Orrin E. Dunlap, Jr., described 
the play as "sing-song literature of the air with a narrator 
who had something of the Shakespearean flavor plus the 
manner of a McNamee describing a football game." This 
is an aspersion on Orson Welles, who played the part of the 
announcer. Actors rushed through their lines so quickly 
that the listener did not have time to see the scene. Even 
the poetic drama required pauses necessary to grip the 

MacLeish sought for simplicity in the use of words and 
restraint. The problem of the radio play is the same as for 
all creative mediums. The playwright was mindful that 
radio characters must be etched. He was also mindful that 
radio drama is still reliant on sound. The voice of the 
announcer, ringing with dramatic foreboding, "Smoke is 
filling the valleys like thunder heads the sun is yellow 
with smoke the town is burning let the conqueror have 
it, the age is his masterless men take a master men must 
be ruled he tramples his shadow the people invent their 

Archibald MacLeish repeated his first success in "Air 
Raid" performed by the Columbia Workshop in 1938. The 
ominous drone of the planes, the shriek of the sirens, all 
recur like a sinister theme in a turbulent symphony. John 
Mason Brown regards it as a "little masterpiece, so bruising 
in its irony and so terrific in its suspense and so moving 
in its unadorned and lovely language that I for one, only 
wish the theatre could claim it as its own. 

"It is studded with characters who are quickly and unfor- 
gettably established as symbols of sufferings old women, 
gossips, and young lovers whose every speech is a cry from 
their hearts that stabs its way into ours." 

Using the same devise as in "The Fall of the City" 
MacLeish made his narrator a radio announcer, stationed 
on a tenement roof, awaiting an enemy bombing raid: 


Strange and curious these times we live in: 
You watch from kitchens for the bloody signs: 
You watch for breaking war above the washing 
on the lines. 

The feeling of terror and dread is dramatically projected. 
There the tension is increased by stressing the time element. 
The number of minutes that have passed are announced 
with regularity and so, too, are the number of minutes that 
must be endured before the dreaded arrival of enemy planes. 
The populace refuses to believe that when the bombing 
planes arrive they will be the first to die. The planes swing 
into strategic formation. Women shout their defiance. But 
Death sweeps the towns. 

The genius of Maxwell Anderson turned to original radio 
drama in "Feast of Ortolans," presented over NBC's net- 
work in 1937. The action begins at the dinner table in the 
chateau of a French noble on the eve of the French Revo- 
lution. Here are assembled a group of famous writers, 
intellectuals and noblemen such as Beaumarchais, Lafayette, 
Condorcet, and Philippe of Orleans. Anderson tried the 
experiment of having no individual protagonist of the 
action. Instead, the individual emerges from the group as 
a representative of that group. Thus Lafayette speaks not 
only as the idealist of the gathering but for idealism. At 
various times during the half hour of the play the radio 
audience may not know who is talking. 

Another special radio play written by Anderson, "The 
Bastion of St. Gervais," is the story of four young Americans 
who went to Spain to fight on behalf of the Loyalist forces. 
The action takes place on the ruins of a Bastion hillside. 
Here is a play built without sound effects except for the 
defiant shots of a sniper, the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun, 
the moan of a dying Moor calling to Allah, and in the finale, 
the foreboding climax of the enemy soldiers closing in on 
the ruined castle where the Americans faced their fate. 


Anderson's productions have been termed "voice plays," 
ingeniously dialogued. "Dialogue is my paint brush," he 
says. In Anderson's plays, every sentence is significant of 
pathos, suspense, the tensities of the scene. Nothing but 
tragedy marks the lines, and the comic spirit is suppressed. 

Alfred Kreymbourg was prompted to turn to radio be- 
cause he deemed it a medium which makes a most direct 
appeal to the imagination. In his poetic play, "The Planets" 
(CBS, 1937), he demonstrated the theory that radio dialogue 
need not be highbrow. Withal the language of the plot is 
so simple. No over lengthy speeches impede the action. 
Kreymbourg holds that poets must write on the level with 
the people on the level of radio. 

The central figure of Kreymbourg's allegorical drama is 
an old astrologer who on seeing the earth threatened by 
invading armies makes an effort to save the human race by 
mirroring the horrors of past wars. He points his glass 
toward the heavens and searches for peace. In the course of 
his starry adventures he meets the planetary gods, Mars, 
Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, who roamed the earth 
as in the days of Greece. 

Kreymbourg's drama proved that in radio, not only can 
the scene be shifted without scene shifters but it is possible 
to jump from planet to planet. Kreymbourg's management 
of over thirty characters makes it difficult for the listener 
at times to know who is talking. Voices cut in abruptly and 
"for sixty minutes," says one critic, "the listeners were sus- 
pended in space." 

Such a treatment of radio drama indicates a startling 
resourcefulness which the medium holds for the ingenious 
author. Kreymbourg himself says: "While 'The Planets' can 
be performed on stage or screen, its prime consideration is 
the ear, and its background unhampered space. Further- 
more, radio sets a limit on the time people can act or tune 
in. In this case it is one hour. This restriction has the 


virtue of forcing an author to concentrate his energies, and 
to employ (whether he knows it or not) the Greek dramatic 
form the short play without intermission." 

Perhaps the use of ornamentalizing radio drama through 
verse has for its chief value the illusion of world removed 
from reality. The poetic level impels listeners to attune 
themselves more easily to that state of feeling to which the 
author wishes to make them most susceptible. W. Somerset 
Maugham deplored the demand for realism in the theater 
because it led the theater to abandon the "ornament of 
verse." The use of the verse, he found, had specific dramatic 
value due to the emotional power of rhythmic speech. 

Sound Effects 

Radio turned to sound effects for realism and its stage 
sets. Sound effects create picture effects, and help create that 
illusion upon which the imagination of the listener feeds. 
Radio sans television has no scenery except the scenery of 
sounds. In the Elizabethan drama, the audience was obliged 
to imagine a forest by reading a sign on the stage, "This 
is a forest." The radio audience sees the forest through the 
ear by catching the swish of the wind and the falling of 

The use of sound effects has made possible a kaleidoscopic 
movement in drama. The play may concern a heroine in a 
terrific struggle with her husband. She leaves the house, 
grabs her suitcase, jumps into a taxi and orders the driver 
to speed to the pier. She wants to catch the first boat out. 
On the legitimate stage dramatic action such as this would 
require the choice of one of these scenes to expound the 
plot. The scene selected might be the woman's home, the 
taxicab, or the pier. In radio drama, sound effects make 
possible a swift sequence of this action, cinema-like in its 
rapid transition. We hear the noise of the scuffle in the 


home; furniture thrown about; panes of glass broken. We 
catch the roar of the city traffic while the taxi honks; on 
the docks the siren of the boat sounds a shrill warning. 

Sound effects may be divided into five sections: vocal, 
manual, electrical, recordings and acoustical. NBC has over 
twelve thousand sound recordings in its library. Records take 
care of about seventy-five per cent of the effects heard over 
the air. Radio has created a new group of specialists in this 
field. Manual effects include those which cannot be re- 
corded, but must be created by the sound man. Windows 
and doors, telephone noises, door bells do not require any 
special ingenuity in creating. Here the real thing is the 

Today audible vibrations are picked up at their source 
and recorded for instant use on the turntable cabinet. The 
cabinet contains electro-phonograph pickups, amplifiers, and 
loud speakers. One operator can handle as many as six 
records at once, all of which requires the utmost skill for 
mixing sounds to get the right effects. NBC has thousands 
of sound effects on disks recorded at their natural points 
of origin, ready for instant use, and these effects can be 
tripled or even quadrupled in number by running the disks 
faster or slower, or by combination. Like a chemist experi- 
menting with new mixtures, the operator is always experi- 
menting with new sound mixtures. 

The first sound effects in radio drama went on the air 
in 1922, over WGY, Schenectady, during a broadcast of 
"The Wolf," the drama of Eugene Walter. The director 
of the play slapped two pieces of wood together to simulate 
the slamming of a door. From this point on, sound effects 
emerged as the triumph of art and engineering. Among 
the pioneers in this field are Walter Pierson, sound-effect 
director at CBS since 1933, and Ray Kelley who has held the 
same position at NBC for over a decade. Kelley instituted 


the sound effects library and solved sound puzzles which 
seemed beyond solution. 

Animal sounds are still produced by the human voice, 
and many by experts who know how to handle their vocal 
chords. It is simple enough to simulate hoof beats by tap- 
ping the chest with plungers, and a good villainous stabbing 
can be established by thrusting a knife into a watermelon. 

In the studio a kiss remains a kiss, but in this instance the 
lips always meet the kisser's own hand. Squeeze water 
alternately from two rubber bulbs and you hear yourself 
milking a cow. The buzz of swarming bees comes from a 
little horn. A battle is a complicated piece of sound-effect 
business. For the big guns they use tympani and thunder 
gun. The rattle of musketry is nothing else than short sticks 
beaten rapidly on the leather bottom of a chair. 

When Gertrude Berg's script calls for the frying of eggs, 
she actually fries them in front of the microphone, but she 
could achieve the same sound effect by crumpling a piece of 

Washing dishes is easier over the air than in real life. 
A seltzer bottle squirted across the microphone produces 
this effect. James Lyons, NBC sound effects man at San 
Francisco, was not to be outdone for realism. During a 
Death Valley Days broadcast, to simulate the sound of a 
prospector washing clothes, he washed two pairs of socks 
and five handkerchiefs before the microphone. 

A commercial client who wished to give talks on poultry 
wanted to get the realistic effects by bringing a coop of hens 
and a lusty rooster to the studio. A plentiful supply of corn 
was scattered around the microphone. The microphone was 
connected to a recording device. The rooster began to crow 
in his best fashion. 

Many calls are made upon Bradley Barker, specialist in 
animal noises. Barker has given years of his life to the per- 
fecting of his art. He spent many seasons with the circus, 


learned various grunts, growls, whines and roars of animals 
so accurately that he could differentiate between the roar 
of a female and male lion. 

For realism one would have to blow up a mine, but why 
go to this sorrow? Get a pile of cardboard boxes filled with 
stones and permit them to tumble before the mike. 

Vocal effects today are uncommon. They are used when 
a unique animal sound or baby cry is required. There is 
a certain young active Dorlore Gillen who emits such life- 
like baby cries that one would swear that there was an infant 
in the studio who plays the role of baby Davy in "The Story 
of Marlin." 

The sound which the listener hears most often in drama is 
the whizz of the automobile; next in frequency is the noise 
of the airplane; third, the beat of horses' hoofs. Sounds 
require the most exact cuing. Improper timing will make a 
scene sound ridiculous. Certain sounds, like the closing of 
a door, are best effected by the real thing. Realism demands 
a variety of doors automobile doors, front doors, gates, iron 

There may be as many as a dozen different noises on one 
side of a record. When records of sounds are used it is 
important that the operator count the grooves as the needle 
revolves around so as to stop it exactly at the right moment. 
Sound records are timed to the lines of the actors. 

Sound Effects in Voice 

Irving Reis found that crude sound effects marred radio 
drama and defeated its purpose by presenting insufficient 
or wrong images. A toot on a whistle might be sufficient to 
convey the effect of a water-front scene, but only a limited 
effect. The listener has a subconscious feeling that something 
is lacking. A single artificial sound effect may be enough 
to make the play unreal. Faithful sound bestirs the mind in 


a manner beyond the vocal skill of the average actor. It was 
the aim of Reis to employ sound as the strongest stimulant 
to the imagination and to arouse emotions in an abstract 
way, to convey definite impressions of mood beyond the 
familiar type of background noises such as hoof-beats, auto- 
mobile sounds, shots of pistols and the like. A single cello 
note on an electric oscillator changing in pitch and in tone 
adds impressively to the dramatic action and carries what 
has been termed an ''awful psychological wallop." In "Tell 
Tale Heart" Reis used an electrical stethoscope and mag- 
nified the human heart beat ten million times. When "Gul- 
liver's Travels" was produced, four studios were used to re- 
duce some voices and magnify others, and keep still others 
normal. The giant was pictured by a huge, booming voice 
and the little fellows by small voices. 

The Columbia Workshop has given strong impetus to the 
study of new effects in vocal acoustics. "On the Columbia 
Workshop," said Irving Reis, "we have to take the wrinkles 
out of a voice. Through the use of an electrical filter, we add 
or subtract a rasp, a lisp, a growl, at will. We have learned 
how to enlarge a sound until, like a closeup in the movies, 
it occupies the entire space of our drama. We know how to 
pinch a sound down until the man's voice becomes no 
louder than the scratching of a pinpoint on ivory. We have 
learned to make sound more gruesome and distant by throw- 
ing it through an echo-chamber. We have even invented 
new sounds to express things unheard or added a strange 
sound to a normal one to get an exotic effect like gold dust 
powder over Marlene Dietrich's hair. We have learned that 
on the air the tonal quality of an actor's voice is as im- 
portant as his diction and expression to express personality." 

Radio drama still overdoes sound effects, and like the 
old-time melodrama, relies upon brutal noises, like gunshots. 
Unless a sound effect clarifies a piece of stage business, it 


is useless. The ideal radio drama is scenery-less. Maxwell 
Anderson attempts to achieve realism by the marriage of 
realistic sounds within the dialogue. The radio dramatist 
can pull on the heart strings of the listener by making sound 
effects an inherent part of the action so that the listener 
emotionalizes with the characters in moments of tenderness, 
kindness, and love. 

Instruction for production of a recent chapter in one of 
those serial thrillers included this direction: "Do not give 
sound effect of arm being torn from socket. Just imply it." 

Radio Drama Goes Hollywood 

Radio drama in 1936 took flight from the East to the 
capital of the movies. The alliance of the networks with the 
film-producing companies was strengthened when both NBC 
and CBS built palatial playhouses and broadcasting centers 
in the very heart of Hollywood. 

Rudy Vallee helped put Hollywood on the radio map. 
Rudy went to the Coast in 1928 to make pictures, but 
managed to fulfill his broadcasting contracts at the same 
time. His program went on the air from a barn-like studio 
on the movie lot with the most primitive monitoring booth 
and sound effects. It was a far cry from the Columbia Play- 
house with its acoustically perfected studios. 

Experimental programs by NBC originating in New York 
dispelled the fear that the box office would be hurt if movie 
stars were permitted to play on the air. For these programs 
the stars had to come by plane to New York for a weekly 
Hollywood program on the networks. 

No programs of a network nature came from Hollywood 
before 1932. Commercial programs had switched into Holly- 
wood occasionally to present movie stars like Clark Gable 
or Ginger Rogers, who made their bows with "Hello, 
Everybody!" followed by a few minutes of chit-chat. No 


one dreamed of casting a movie star in a preview or a post 
view of a movie play. 

When MGM finally became convinced that the tabloid 
dramatic presentation of their film stories would be an 
important means of building up box-office patronage, the 
stars of the cinema were enlisted, and radio drama began 
to emanate from Hollywood. Many sponsors sought MGM, 
Ford Motor Cars, Palmolive, Socony Vacuum, Lucky Strike. 

Louella Parsons had already introduced the system ot 
getting movie stars to exploit scenes from their new produc- 
tions without pay. As the first newspaperwoman to devote 
herself exclusively to movie gossip, she used to "invite" the 
stars to be interviewed before the microphone. Few refused 
the proffer of publicity which she controlled though many 
grumbled at being asked to perform for nothing. 

The drama productions of "Hollywood Hotel" were 
heralded in 1933 as great contributions to the radio arts. 
In effect, they were capsuled versions of the latest motion 
pictures, heavily incrusted with plugs for the sponsor. Their 
popularity was proved by the increase of the sponsor's sales 
by thirty million dollars in the two and one-half years that 
William Bacher took over their direction. 

After four and a half years on the air, "Hollywood Hotel" 
passed into oblivion and gave way to Orson Welles' "Mer- 
cury Theatre of the Air." A change in method has been 
going on gradually. "Hollywood Hotel" made its first switch 
by dropping previews in favor of completed stories, on that 
part of the program known as "Campbell Playhouse." 
Welles' choice of plays was distinctly modern, with plenty 
of romantic interest, nothing of the thriller or intellectual 

The largest part of Hollywood's air policy has been to 
present scenes from forthcoming pictures. The Lux Radio 
Theatre, with the producers of "Seventh Heaven" starring 
Miriam Hopkins and John Boles, began its Hollywood cycle 


under the advertised direction of Cecil B. De Mille in 1938. 
There were hopes that the master producer of movie drama 
might infuse radio drama with new impulses and tech- 
niques. No such miracle happened. De Mille merely lent the 
aura of his name. The actual producer of these productions 
was Frank Woodruff who, with a passion for detail, did what 
was possible with telescoped drama. 

The De Mille plays follow the familiar formula: A nar- 
rator, who sets the scene, a movie drama cut into three 
"acts" to fit the time limits, the usual complement of sound 
effects, the trick of recalling the feature players to prattle 
about the product, the commercials that clutter up the kilo- 
cycles between the acts. 

The era of Hollywood drama has established certain prin- 
ciples in the creation and in the acting of scripts which seem 
germane to the methods of the movie. Movie scripts within 
the conventional formula are more easily adapted to radio 
than a stage play. The scenes of the movie scripts are shorter, 
changes in locale more frequent and the pace more varied. 
The film scenario offers a simple task for radio adaptation. 

Hollywood movie plays converted to radio, however, 
suffer from compression. The Lux Radio Theatre uses forty- 
three minutes for the play and gives over the rest of the 
hour to the ingratiating and pompous between-the-acts 
effusions of De Mille, curtain speeches and plugs for the 
sponsor. The effect upon the listener is that of receiving a 
slice of the pie instead of the whole pie. Intelligent listeners 
are tantalized not only by the snippy excerpts from movie 
stories, but by the glorified plugs for the pictures. 

The myth that Hollywood could produce bigger and 
better drama than the East has been exploded. The problem 
involves not geographical locale but, rather, good plays 
technically constructed for radio and competent production. 
Vigorous, powerful and brilliant drama can be built up and 
produced in California just as it can in New York. In spite 


of all propaganda about the advantages of Hollywood, radio 
drama coming from Hollywood and New York sound about 
the same as they emerge from the loud speaker. 

Whatever virtues Hollywood drama may have, it has also 
served to show how radio drama should not be produced. 
Hollywood can not point with pride to many of its tabloid 
radio dramas undone by actor, producer and writer un- 
familiar with the demands of the microphone. When 
producers insist on certain stars who, because of other 
assignments, can not be present at rehearsals, the results are 
bound to be sloppy and inadequate. Hollywood drama often 
has the earmarks of a hurry-up job. 

The networks have attempted to build up the personality 
of radio performers to such an extent that when they do 
appear on the screen they will find an audience that is 
thoroughly familiar with their personalities as disclosed by 
voice alone. What sounds good on the air can be made to 
sound better when cameraized. For some reason, however, 
Amos 'n Andy never fared well in pictures. Their first 
experiment was not repeated. 

A picture version of a successful serial story thrives upon 
an established radio audience that is already familiar with 
the setting, the characterization, and the plot of the story. 
Radio brought to the pictures "One Man's Family" and 
"Hollywood Hotel." The time may come when it will be 
necessary to develop players who are not steeped in the 
Hollywood tradition. 

The roster of actors on Hollywood programs consists 
almost entirely of pure movie names. Hollywood drama has 
fostered the star system. The radio actor is assauged by the 
hope: "Don't cry! You may be a Don Ameche by and by!" 
With a start at the radio helm, sponsors feel more secure 
about their advertising investment. A twenty-four carat 
movie-name eliminates the sponsor's difficult task of develop- 
ing stars of his own. Clark Gable, for example, may come 


high, but he involves no gamble. On the air the movie star 
has an immeasurable advantage over the player whose fea- 
tures and temperament and type are unknown to the listen- 
ers. Hollywood glamour remains irresistible to the radio fan. 
Listeners have already been touched by the glamour and 
the romance of their favorite Hollywood stars in their screen 

When sponsors began to ask for big names, salaries began 
to soar to fantastic levels. The price war was on when Danny 
Danker of the J. Walter Thompson Agency went to Holly- 
wood to put on shows for Lux Theatre. Picture people who 
had been previously cajoled to work for nothing were 
amazed to be offered a salary. Hollywood Hotel ran up a 
total talent bill of seventeen thousand dollars. Several pro- 
grams ran as high as thirty thousand dollars a week. In 
1938, some six hundred film actors took in five thousand 
dollars average for radio work. It must be remembered, by 
way of comparison, that hardly one of the hits current on 
the Broadway stage cost as much as a single half-hour pro- 
gram in radio's high brackets. 

The Hollywood motion picture talent market for radio 
has something of a scale of prices for various classes of 
players, from three hundred and fifty dollars up. For in- 
stance, the "asking" price for a single radio performance 
is three thousand five hundred dollars for Joan Crawford, 
Claudette Colbert, Jeanette MacDonald, Lily Pons, Frances 
Langford and Ginger Rogers. About two thousand five hun- 
dred dollars is asked for Jack Oakie, Lionel Barryraore, 
George Raft, Edward Arnold and Herbert Marshall. Ann 
Sothern, Alice Faye and Zasu Pitts may be had for one thou- 
sand five hundred dollars, while Joel McCrea, Jane Withers, 
Edmund Lowe, Pat O'Brien, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred 
MacMurray and Victor McLaglen demand one thousand 
dollars per air show. Such luminaries as Grace Moore, John 
Barrymore and Fredric March command higher fees. 


The employment of Hollywod stars has been estimated to 
have added ten per cent to the cost of radio talent, bringing 
up the talent charges for the average national network pro- 
gram to forty per cent of the program's production costs. 

There are signs that the picture star in radio is regarded 
by the listener more critically than on the screen. Sponsors 
have discovered that it takes more than a glamorous name 
to make people listen. "Star studding" of a program is no 
substitute for sloppily produced plays. Surveys have shown 
that many listeners decide not to see a picture because they 
were not impressed by its broadcast version or by the efforts 
of the star before the microphone. Hence, there is a genuine 
danger to the box office if a scene from a current picture is 
badly handled on the air. 

Many "guests" from the screen often fail dismally in the 
interpretation of their lines. The fault may lie in inadequate 
preparation and the nature and quality of the dialogue. The 
microphone performance of Marion Davies and Joel McCrea 
in "The Brat" suffered from a stumbling rendition that had 
no semblance of art. 

Norma Shearer's performance in "Marie Antoinette" was 
nothing like her screen work. She gave the script a light 
once-over on the Thursday before going on the air, and 
failed to rehearse with the cast the night before the pro- 
gram. Lack of rehearsal failed to give the radio producer 
accurate timing of the script, and caused the program to be 
cut by NBC when it ran overtime. 

Recent developments indicate that the film industry is 
beginning to change its policies with regard to radio. The 
producers do not wish to lose control over their featured 
players. They established a "secret" committee of production 
experts on the Coast to observe the stars' radio activities. It 
was supposed to "regulate" them, in principle at least. 
Twentieth Century Fox proposed in February, 1939, to 
buy back the radio contracts of certain of its stars. 


The star is now tied up by the clauses in his contract that 
reserve to the film producers radio and television rights. 
In addition, the practice of certain film companies is to put 
on their own radio programs and, under special contracts, 
the star is no longer made available for other sponsors. 

Paramount has a distinct leaning toward radio because 
its stars originally came from that media, among them being 
Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, 
Martha Raye, Bob Burns and Dorothy Lamour. 

Variety recently reported that for every star subject to 
anti-radio pressure from the film studios, the advertising 
agencies can turn to dozens who are free agents either 
because of the terms of their film contracts or because of 
their free lance standard. 

A big star such as Edward G. Robinson can strike out for 
himself unfettered. Robinson had no radio clauses in his 
contract and went on the air in spite of the disapproval of 
Warner Brothers. The success of his new program, "Big 
Sister," put new life into the waning Hollywood-Radio 
relationship, and was mainly responsible for his big salary 
jump for pictures he made for producers other than Warner 
Brothers. He used to get forty thousand dollars per picture, 
and now it is a minimum of one hundred thousand dollars. 
Now he gets five thousand five hundred for each radio pro- 
gram, and this is radio's top for dramatic stars. 

The Future of Radio Dramas 

The networks may pride themselves on some notable 
drama achievements. Several historical cycles have been 
done with great art and distinction, but drama still remains 
in its experimental stage, and even though the stage took 
thousands of years to reach its present form, it is hoped 
that radio may round out for itself perfected norms and 


It is generally known that intelligent listeners regard 
with abhorrence the general run of radio plays. Most of 
these are poorly written affairs, hastily slapped together by 
inexperienced writers and given haphazard production. The 
average radio play seldom departs from a slush formula. 

Signs are that the radio audience is slowly being educated 
to appreciate good drama. America is going through the 
same experience as England in this business of weaning 
away the listener from competitive programs. Val Gielgud, 
the dramatic director of BBC, calls attention to the changing 
attitude of the public: "In England about 1930, radio drama 
was regarded with a mixture of contempt and faint amuse- 
ment by press and public alike. At best it was regarded as 
a dismal pis aller for the benefit of people who were unable 
to go to the theater owing to the factors of distance and 
expense. It soon became clear that the main obstacle to be 
surmounted was the unfamiliarity of the medium to the 
average listener." 

American audiences, at first attracted by big names, will 
some time come to insist on good plays. The broadcasting 
of plays is beginning to grow in authority and public in- 
terest, and just as the BBC is regarded as the National 
Theatre of Great Britain, so our big network systems can 
satisfy the public convenience and necessity by providing 
listeners with a national theater of the United States. 

Important impetus can be given to the radio drama move- 
ment by drama guilds operating in separate communities, 
affording both the writer and the actor a field for presenta- 
tion of original or adapted works. Orson Welles had this 
idea in mind when he said: "I think it is time that radio 
came to realize that no matter how wonderful a play may 
be for the stage it cannot be as wonderful for the air. We 
plan to bring to radio the experimental techniques which 
have proved so successful in another medium, and to treat 


radio itself with the intelligence and respect which such 
a beautiful and powerful medium deserves." 

Radio has been charged with being voracious with its 
material. A program is produced once and probably never 
again. Music is the exception. There is no doubt that great 
plays can be done over and over again with success. Radio 
can build up a repertory of classic and popular drama that 
would vie with music in appeal. The radio audience at the 
present time is not a theater audience, but once the ardor 
catches on, radio will be way ahead of the stage. 

Gilbert Seldes called attention to the fact that radio has 
now only one backlog the repertory of musical classics. 
Adding a second, in the repertory of classic drama, he claims 
would give radio drama a solidity which it requires. "Great 
plays," wrote Seldes, "can be played over and over again 
with great success. Shakespeare can be made a permanent 
feature of broadcasting if new players are cast in the prin- 
cipal roles." And Heaven knows America has a plentiful 
crop of new players. 

In the experimental dramas instituted by CBS Work- 
shop under the direction of Irving Reis, a new impulse 
was given to radio drama. Here was a pioneer, an engineer 
experimenting with sound and voice able to create new 
effects in composition. The Workshop first came into promi- 
nence when Reis produced his own "St. Louis Blues" in 
1934. The play deals with the reaction of various people to 
the wailing of the saxophones. It scored a smart hit and won 
Reis recognition. It has been done eight times in this and 
other countries, and it should be done once a year, just as 
a lesson to production men throughout the country. 

Reis's next offering was "Meridian 7-1212," the number 
dialed by New Yorkers who desire to know the time of day 
or night. The drama written around it was a thriller, the 
climax coming when the operator on duty announced mid- 
night. Her brother went to the electric chair at midnight. 


You can imagine the gripping finale as the girl told the time 
and collapsed. 

Radio has the power to shift scenery in the twinkling of 
an eye. In "Meridian 7-1212" the author deals with dramatic 
material essentially suited to microphone production. The 
plot concerns the editor of the paper who is in desperate 
need of a story. He sends a reporter to see if there is any 
human interest stuff in the lives of the telephone girls who 
give the exact time. The listener is shown, in a number of 
powerful flash-backs, how important the exact time may be 
in the lives of people. The protagonist is the telephone 
operator in the Meridian exchange who has a brother in the 
death house at Sing Sing. At midnight he is to be executed. 
She watches the big clock. She continues to announce the 
time. The climatic moment arrives. Her nerve bears with 
her while she utters, "When you hear the signal it will be 
exactly twelve o'clock." Then follows a dull thud, the tele- 
phone girl has collapsed. The futility and irony of the 
drama is concentrated in the report of the reporter to his 
editor, "The only people who call Meridian 7-1212 are those 
whose watches have stopped, or those who are too lazy to 
go into the next room to find the time." 

"Radio drama is still hackneyed," Reis told the writer 
in an interview. "After a long period of continuous listen- 
ing for my log engineering sheet, I realized that the script 
authors were not taking full advantage of the medium of 
radio. It is possible that they were more concerned with the 
way their scripts looked on paper than they would sound 
over the air. But it's the ear and mind that the programs had 
to be written for, and that's one fact I always remembered." 

Sound effects have played important parts in all of Reis's 
radio creations. He terms them as important, if not more 
important, in some cases, than the actors. But when Reis 
speaks of sound effects, he doesn't mean the usual type of 
background noise, to wit, horses, hoofbeats, automobile 


horns, pistol shots, etc. He means such abstract sounds as a 
single cello note or an electric oscillator hum, changing in 
pitch and tone along with the dramatic action. In addition 
to cello and oscillator background, the young engineer- 
author has used other abstract sound effects, notably human 

"I haven't perfected radio drama by a long shot/' Reis 
remarked. "There's still plenty of room for improvement 
and I expect to do much experimenting." 

The new director of the Workshop, William N. Robson, 
hopes to broaden and deepen popular appreciation of the 
theater, and hopes in particular to elevate the standards of 
radio drama about which, from time to time, there have 
been cries of despair both from critics and from listeners. 

Directing the Play 

The ideal director of a radio drama should be a master 
mind. "A director," said Margaret Webster, "needs just 
about everything." The earlier radio productions were 
thrown together by amateurs in directing without regard to 
the limitations imposed by the microphone. 

The function of the director of radio drama is first of 
all to understand the meaning and methods and message 
of the play. He senses the mood of the script, in terms of the 
spoken word. The director then searches for a suitable cast. 
Upon his judgment will depend the total effect in voice 
characterization without benefit of the eye. A play that is 
miscast in voice had better not be done at all. Vocal inter- 
pretation must show plausibility, be it the voice of the 
grandfather, the child, or the lover. When the voice goes 
far off the mark, the listener grows incredulous and blots 
the actor off the air as an impostor. 

The director chooses his actors with an ear to specific 
tonal effects in voice. Players are selected whose pitch range 


fits the scheme of the character. Irving Reis showed 
extraordinary judgment in selecting actors whose voices were 
flexible enough to lend themselves to experiments in tone. 
"In radio," he declared, "we now cast the roles as an 
orchestrator of music selects certain instruments to obtain 
a particular emotion. We have even experimented upon 
the similarity of certain voice qualities to musical qualities 
and found they could be made much alike." 

Air directing, Mr. Stanford has found, comes straight back 
to the theater. Timing, pacing, tempo, showmanship, all 
have the same relationship to producing a good show that 
they have on Broadway. His first care has been to throw 
microphone tradition out of the window and make his actors 
feel comfortable and authentic in their characterizations. 
Wallace Beery played "The Old Soak" with his shirt open 
at the neck and his suspenders hanging down. Paul Muni 
had a coat rack put beside the microphone so that he could 
actually grab his coat, jam on his hat, and rush away in 
"Counsellor-at-Law." Mr. Stanford, when it is possible, al- 
ways has his players do their own doors, having learned from 
long experience in the theater that sometimes the way a door 
is closed can make a telling dramatic climax. 

Walter Huston thought all the fuss was a little unneces- 
sary. But when he did "The Minuet," as blank a bit of 
elocution as ever went over the air, on the Vallee hour a few 
weeks later without rehearsal, he had to admit that the Lux 
people were right. 

Next comes the rehearsal. A director's hardest work comes 
at rehearsals. A successful play must have enough rehearsal 
time to make a finished production and not a script-reading. 
Inadequate preparation has killed off many dramas on the 
air. It is an easy temptation to cut down rehearsals since 
the play never goes on for over an hour, rarely to be 

Producers are slowly realizing that a radio play demands 


just as much consistent rehearsal as does a stage production. 
Indeed, it takes much more practice and patience to coordi- 
nate the actors in an air drama. Leading stars of the theater, 
anxious to retain their reputations on the air, seriously 
devoted themselves to rehearsal. Even though Jane Cowl 
had appeared before the footlights over a thousand times 
in "Smilin' Thru" she spent two solid weeks rehearsing her 
part, prior to her microphone debut. Some actresses throw 
themselves just as strenuously into rehearsal as for the final 
performance. During rehearsal Elsie Ferguson wept bitterly 
while enacting the pathetic roles of "Madame X" and 
"Camille," affecting her fellow-performers in the same way. 

It takes more than a stop-watch and familiarity with 
studio routine to make a dramatic director. Many directors 
lack the necessary background of the theater. The Lux 
Radio Theatre always employed professional directors. It 
was the custom of Mr. Stanford, the director, to give out 
his scripts on Monday, work for five hours at his task of 
getting the play jellied. He rehearsed on Wednesday and 
Thursday. On Friday, he held the first dress rehearsal. On 
Saturday, the cast rested. On Sunday, everybody was in the 
studio by eleven and worked right on until two. The show 
went on at two-thirty. 

The director's prime requisite is an ability to listen, to im- 
bue the play with its finest personal element, to make mere 
sound emerge as the spiritual embodiment of the author. 
After repeated criticism and rehearsal, instead of an empty 
reading, the production will be filled with the breath of 
life. Long hours of rehearsal are behind broadcasts such as 
"The Fall of the City." To achieve the proper sound effects, 
the program was staged in the Seventh Regiment Armory 
in New York. Its vast drill area made possible acoustical 
effects that approximated the square of a big city in tumult. 
Four microphones were placed to get the right balance, and 
the echoes of a mob of one hundred and fifty added to the 


realistic effect. A simple trick of engineering was used to 
augment the noise of the crowd. During the rehearsal the 
crowd noises of one hundred and fifty participants were 
recorded, to be reproduced during the actual performance 
through loud speakers at each end of the Armory. Such a 
device gave the effect of depth because of the lapse of a 
fraction of a second between the recorded voices and the 
actual voices of the shouting mob. 

Dr. William Bacher (D.D.S., L.L.D., M.A) formerly prac- 
ticing dentist of Bayonne, New Jersey, began his producing 
career by accident. He attracted attention by his sharp 
criticisms of programs produced and was given a chance to 
do better. As the director of "Hollywood Hotel," he was a 
continually erupting volcano of energy and temperament. 
He occupied a low stand during a broadcast and directed 
his players as a conductor leads a symphony. Such earnest- 
ness stimulates the actor. 

Bacher gestured frantically for sound effects, pleaded by 
the movement of his hands for more emotion from the actors 
during a dramatic scene, crouched, spun upright, and dis- 
played an earnestness that would do justice to a Toscanini. 
His discipline was exact so that when his clenched fists 
struck the air the knocking by the sound-effects assistant was 
exactly synchronized. 

The practical work of a producer makes his radio fac- 
totum. His duties are manifold. 

1. He co-ordinates the actors and exercises executive con- 
trol in the studio. 

2. He makes changes and deletions in the script to fit and 
discover fresh qualities in the text to meet time schedules. 

3. He suggests microphone techniques and placements 
best for each actor. 

4. He balances music and sound effects to the best ad- 


5. He cooperates with the control engineer during re- 
hearsal over the monitor speaker in the control room. 

6. He gives clues to the announcer, cast, sound man and 
orchestra leader. 

One has but to attend a rehearsal to catch the important 
phases of direction. Such a picture is furnished by Martin 
Gosch, Assistant Director of the Columbia Workshop. In 
a personal interview with Alton Cook he confides: "In this 
play it took much longer, with a blend of sound effects, 
music and voices. We spent an hour and thirty-five minutes 
for all the rest of the play, and out of that time had to come 
a half hour for dress rehearsal." 

Until dress rehearsal is over the director is never sure 
whether the play is going to run the exact twenty-nine 
minutes and forty-five seconds allotted. Radio permits no 
deviation either way. The situation is handled (by Gosch) 
in this way. "There have been times when, ten minutes 
before broadcast, we had to cut two and a half minutes out 
of the script, a few seconds from one scene, a half minute 
from another, and so on, always being careful to cut around 
the lines vital to the action." 


GLOOMILY it was predicted ten years ago that the 
broadcasting of jazz would corrupt the public taste 
and that good music would be abolished from the earth. 
Good music has an immortality and the electrical arts could 
only perpetuate proving that it takes all kinds of minds and 
all kinds of people to make a world. The truth is that 
musicians have completely captured radio and stimulated 
popular response to good music undreamed of in this 

Samuel Chotzinoff pays acclaim to the popular school of 
music. "I happen to know my Stravinsky, Berg, Sessions 
et al and I know, also, Kern, Rodgers, Berlin, Gershwin, et 
al and while it may be said with truth that they are sepa- 
rated by a gulf, as I see it, that gulf is the void between 
sterility and inspiration. It happens to be a caprice of nature 
at the moment, that our serious composers are sterile, and 
our Tin Pan Alley songsters fecund." 

Elie Siegmeister, the music critic, wonders who is to 
determine what is "good" and what is "bad" music, and 
furthermore, the question arises, "good for what?" To some, 
the music of Stravinsky (or Shostakovich or Schonberg or 
Gershwin) is stimulating, vivid, challenging, "good," be- 
cause it reflects the forces of contemporary life; to others 
it is discordant, ugly and depressing. 

The infiltration of music culture was hastened beyond 
wildest dreams by the advent of phonograph and radio. 
Through these devices millions of people were exposed to 
symphonies for the first time. The trouble was that they were 
supposed to take them and like them. Or else, to pretend. 



If a man expressed an honest preference for "Dinah" or 
"Star Dust" and not for Tschaikowsky's Fifth, he was classi- 
fied as hopelessly lowbrow. So two camps arose the low- 
brows and the highbrows. 

There is no definite measuring scale by which to deter- 
mine how many people want jazz music and how many 
prefer the higher forms. But it is certain that there is a 
vast audience for both types of music and the lover of the 
symphony may turn to jazz for comfort depending on the 
time, the mood and the variety of personal adjustment. 

It was a source of immense satisfaction to the great musi- 
cal critic, Lawrence Gilman, that within "the last decade or 
so, the average man has discovered chiefly through the 
agency of phonographs and radio broadcasts that the art of 
music is not the province of a few incomprehensible special- 
ists, but a vast and boundless continent of the mind, inex- 
haustible in its richness for the spirit." 

The masses were denied the music of the masters and 
barred from participation in its beauties until radio sud- 
denly swept away the barriers and admitted all the people 
to the charmed circle. In the early days many artists were 
afraid to broadcast. They were not sure that the microphone 
would do justice to their tonalities. Today there are only a 
few of the notable artists who have never broadcast. These 
include Rachmaninoff and Kreisler. Radio broke down cer- 
tain theories. First was that mass audiences were fatigued by 
long pieces like symphonies. Today some of the broadcasts 
which present great music unabridged are the most popular 
programs. Second, the notion that unsophisticated listeners 
disliked modern music. John Barbirelli, conductor of the 
Philharmonic Symphony, said at a recent meeting of the 
Contemporary Club of Philadelphia, "I am inclined to think 
that prejudice against a certain musical idiom is occasioned 
by having been brought up as a child on too restricted a 
musical diet, and that the radio public knows its own tastes 

MUSIC lig 

very well merely because it has been allowed to sample 
scores of all periods without undue emphasis on any one 

"The delight in sharing an artistic experience with hun- 
dreds of thousands of other listeners who are present and 
who applaud with you cannot be replaced by a private reac- 
tion detached from a gregarious occasion." And this after 
a study of twenty-five thousand letters received by the Phil- 
harmonic in one year. 


The band leader, Al Goodman, calls this the "Age of 
Arrangement," "We are living," says he, "in an arrangement 
age, musically speaking, because people are no different to- 
day than a generation ago in their love of melody. They 
want melody and they want it so presented that they can 
recognize it." 

Arranging means taking the theme and making a musical 
production of it creating introductions and perhaps codes 
and so on. Orchestrating means the making of orchestral 
versions for a given tune. 

Music of the older masters does not have to be adapted 
for radio. There is no need for adaptation. The music is 
well orchestrated and should be played as written. 

Bandmasters are compelled to create new arrangements. 
They must insert new harmony here, a new rhythm there, 
shift the chorus from the trombone to the saxophone or 
from the saxophone to the trumpet. The purpose of arrange- 
ment is to get a "zip" to music that identifies it, whether 
Dvorak or Schubert as a conductor. When a radio maestro 
wants plenty of flash and feeling in his music, he tells his 
men to play with more "Schmalz." The term is a by-word 
among musicians. According to Benny Goodman it comes 
from an ingenious old-time arranger, named Schmalz. 


Staff and independent arrangers are a vital adjunct to 
every band leader. It is not unusual for a top band to pay 
out one thousand dollars a week for special arrangements. 
Paul Whiteman is lavish in this respect, employing a chief 
arranger on a straight salary of five hundred dollars a week. 
His total expenditures for arrangements over a period of 
twenty years are said to amount to over a million dollars. 

Arrangements are the order of the day. Al Goodman 
asserts that arrangements are almost seventy-five per cent 
responsible for the success of an orchestra. The arranger is 
master of the art of counterpoint, and counterpoint, he 
explains, consists of playing different melodies simul- 
taneously on an orchestration or arrangement. ''Radio is 
full of arrangers," said Goodman, "who write counterpoint 
without ever having studied it. It's instinctive with them, 
and they get some effects that your serious European 
musicians envy." 

Ferde Groffe was probably the first to make arrangements 
for a jazz band. In 1925 he was working with a band in 
San Francisco, and he attempted to revise the impromptu 
style of the band into a fixed creation of his own. His efforts 
have been termed "musical sauce a la Groffe." 

Paul Whiteman, ushered in a kind of renaissance in 
orchestrated jazz. In his orchestration, Whiteman attempts 
to bridge the gap between hot jazz and serious music. "More 
than any other man, Paul Whiteman is responsible for the 
present method of orchestral playing of popular music," 
so says Ted H using. "Before his day, a broadcasting band 
played melodies exactly as they were written. Whiteman 
took jazz and dance music and made them symphonic, be- 
sides putting in variations in rhythm. This development 
kept on until all the best orchestras were playing in what 
is now called "advance style" that is, the melody oozes 
out against very simple but intricate-sounding rhythms in 
the accompaniment, and rhythm contrasts are used to supple- 

MUSIC 121 

ment the classical beauties of contrasts in key modulations, 
and between major and minor." 

Because of radio, grand opera is no longer the prerogative 
of the wealthy intelligentsia. It takes its place in strict com- 
petition for favor with the latest "torch" song. Opera was a 
matter of social prestige. Humble people were scared away 
and still are by one good look at the box-office prices. Radio 
has done much to arouse interest in the opera. The pioneer 
broadcast was made on January 10, 1910, when Caruso and 
Emmy Destinn sang arias from "Cavalleria Rusticana" and 
"Pagliacci," which were trapped and magnified by the dicto- 
graph directly from the stage and borne on the Hertzian 
waves. NBC broadcast Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" 
the first entire opera, from the stage of the Metropolitan on 
April 30, 1931. Within ten years radio has established a na- 
tion-wide familiarity with opera. 

The networks paid the Met one hundred thousand dol- 
lars a season for the privilege but it was worth more than 
that in terms of prestige to the company, and the sponsors 
like Lucky Strike and Listerine. Opera thus became estab- 
lished in the listener's taste. In 1939, the Directors, faced 
with a deficit, threatened to close down the performances 
and sent out an SOS to the listeners for contributions. 
Previously, the Directors of the New York Philharmonic 
Society, threatened with financial destruction, made a simi- 
lar SOS (Save Our Symphony) to the public which responded 
with five hundred thousand dollars. The Met boxholders 
who had been assessed annually four thousand five hundred 
dollars announced that they would no longer contribute the 
money and a million dollar fund became necessary. Listeners 
contributed the sum of $326,936. It is estimated that ten mil- 
lion persons listened to a single performance of "Lohengrin." 

Music form depends on three things: (i) the advancement 
of our musical understanding; (2) the quality of the music 
we hear; (3) the excellence of the receiving set. With final 


judgment Hendrik van Loon says: "If you are musically ig- 
norant and are content to listen to trash on a radio set that 
gives imperfect reception, then get all the fun out of it you 
can, but remember you are very much like an old myopic 
gentleman trying to read a cheap paper by candlelight." 

Sponsors of Music 

Music today is said to be the by-product of advertising 
agencies whose influence is considered a factor more dis- 
couraging to the art than is any other. Benny Goodman 
himself in an interview in the World Telegram decried the 
trend. "Music," says the bandleader, "has become industrial- 
ized by the sponsors, many of whom know nothing of music 
which can be proved. I mean that they appraise a song from 
their own viewpoint, forgetting that tunes played ten thou- 
sand times on the air in two years, like 'Sylvia' and 'The 
End of a Perfect Day' and 'Liebestraum' may indicate a 
worn-out welcome rather than a tendency to listen." 

A sponsor has often forbidden his bandmaster to play 
good, tuneful harmonies of the great composers, especially 
if the movement is slow. Benny Goodman once complained 
that he was balked in his desire to play the slow movement 
of a Mozart quintette, as a stunt, after his Carnegie Hall 
swing session. 

Pity the poor sponsor. In 1933, he tried the classics on the 
people. Beethoven and Bach had a real trial when three 
sponsors laid out huge sums for programs that vied with the 
quality of the New York Philharmonic Symphony orchestra 
The millennium seemed at hand. It seemed that radio wa? 
making America a nation of music-lovers. Too good to be 
true, or to last. In 1934 all of the three sponsors went back 
to the dance bands and the light classics. And, as Alton Cook 
observed, "every radio season since then brought an abund- 
ance of good orchestras on sponsored programs, nearly all of 

MUSIC 123 

them with announcements written in symphonic talk and 
playing music just a step above that which you get in a good 
beer garden." 

In the past great music was inaccessible to the public. 
Radio programs and radio performances which are develop- 
ing taste are gradually forcing sponsors to improve and yield 
to all tastes. The sponsor will claim that he knows how to 
manufacture and sell his products, but that it has become 
his business to attract listeners to those things they prefer 
as proved by experience. If necessary he will offer skimmed 
milk instead of the heavy cream of music if the public taste 
is such. It's cheaper in the long run. 

The sponsor is the new patron of the Arts comparable to 
kings and emperors of the middle ages. He oversteps his 
mark often in his advertising talk but he brings great music 
into the home and widens artistic appreciation of the best. 
''Music is not a language unless it is played," said Deems 
Taylor. "How many people can read music? To enjoy music 
you must hear it. A symphony is limited in time a sym- 
phony concert must appeal to a large number of people. 
To make place for new music you must leave out a piece of 
old music and as a result a conductor examines a new piece 
more critically than a curator of a museum ordering new 
art work." 

There is no question but that the sponsor has contributed 
enormously to the diffusion of musical culture among wide 
masses of people never reached by the concert. Yet, much 
as they have done, their utility is seriously limited, and, 
even negated by (i) the lack of any serious, systematic edu- 
cational program to relate the music to the lives of the 
people, and (2) the planless, crazy-quilt mixture of "class- 
ical," "semi-classical" and "popular" music (often on the 
same program) dictated by the commercial sponsor's philoso- 
phy of "appealing to every taste." As a result, while much 
fine music is played, it is often bogged down and lost in a 


morass of mediocrity and musical pap. Many of the best 
programs of unusual and valuable music are presented at 
hours when they cannot be heard by the majority of people 
who work. 

There was a day when the showmen of radio thought they 
had to surrender the summer microphone to dance bands, 
because they believed the listeners favored "music in a 
lighter vein." But that theory has changed. The radio people 
have discovered that warm weather does not necessarily 
mean the public has put the love for good music away with 
the furs and overcoats. 

Music has always held first place in broadcasting because 
it is the one act that has universal appeal. Radio music to- 
day can mould the taste of tomorrow. The destiny of music 
lies largely in the hands of the dictators of broadcasting. 
Music has penetrated every section of the civilized and un- 
civilized globe, because music expresses emotions which are 
felt by the general run of people everywhere. 

Music has an important place in the education of the 
emotions. Aldous Huxley finds reason to believe that more 
people are able to participate in the experience of the music- 
maker than in that of the painter, the architect, or even the 
imaginative writer. Music is an educational outlet, for wid- 
ening the consciousness and imparting a flow of emotion, in 
a desirable direction. " Music," says Huxley, "may be used 
to teach a number of valuable lessons. When they listen to 
a piece of good music, people of limited ability are given 
the opportunity of actually experiencing thought-and-feeling 
processes of a man of outstanding intellectual power and 
exceptional insight. Finest works of art are precious, among 
other reasons because they make it possible for us to know, 
if only imperfectly, and for a little while, what it actually 
feels like to think subtly and feel nobly." 

The late Ernest Schelling once said: "Music is a habit." 
A person can accustom himself to needing music or doing 

MUSIC 125 

without it. He can accustom himself to a taste for good or 
bad; and since habits are mostly acquired in early youth 
when the mind is elastic and impressionable, the best way 
to lay the foundations for music in a nation is to induce 
good musical habits in the children. 

There was once a judge versed in radio lore who was 
called upon to rule in a divorce suit partly growing out of 
complaints by the husband that he preferred light music on 
the radio and by the wife that she preferred opera. The hus- 
band threw the radio set out of the window, smashing it. 
The judge decided that they should buy two radio sets, to 
be equipped with earphones so each might listen without 
annoyance to the other. There is reason to believe that after 
this judgment, the couple are living happily ever for radio. 

Deems Taylor makes it known that musical education has 
a long way to go in the recognition of new music. He quotes 
the English critic, Newman, who says that music of every 
period lacks melody when compared with the past. The 
familiar is the accepted. Hence, Taylor's plea to the listener 
not to reject the melodies of the new if they clash with the 
understanding. "Listen again, if it annoys you or makes you 
angry," he says; "or if it bores you. If a composer furnishes 
enough personality to make you recognize new style, give 
it a chance. Hear it again." 

Musical democracy tolerates no snob. A snob is one who 
by dictionary definition "makes birth or wealth or superior 
position the sole criterion of worth." Those who insist that 
the world listen to inferior music represent the same danger- 
ous snobbery as those who insist on only the classics. Who is 
it that knows the taste of the millions and dares to set 
standards for them on the basis of a mediocre musical diet? 

A "Back to the Masters" movement all began with a few 
self-appointed radio prophets telling us our taste in music 
was terrible and that we should go for symphonies and 
operas. The cry was taken up by the public schools which 


began installing courses in ' 'music appreciation," purporting 
to inculcate the student with a love for the old masters by 
studying their lives and works. Colleges, the press, and radio 
began to rally to the uplift cause. 

Radio has its time limitations however, for opera broad- 
casts. "Pagliacci" is ideal for radio, covering only one hour, 
but "Parsifal" would require four and a half hours. Hence 
the networks went scouting for creators of opera who could 
keep the performance within time limits. Tabloid versions 
of opera seem to be the vogue. If Shakespeare can be stream- 
lined, so can Bizet. Carmen was telescoped to sixty minutes. 
This is an opera which would consume some four hours or 
more of stage time. 

Erno Rapee, in 1938, conducted a festival of tabloid opera 
for the Music Hall of the Air, taking care not to omit a 
single aria duet or ensemble of musical significance. 

Under commission from CBS, Vittoria Giannini wrote a 
twenty-nine minute and thirty seconds opera entitled "Blen- 
nerhasset," the libretto of which dealt with the escape of 
Aaron Burr. 

NBC commissioned Gian-Carlo Menotti to write an origi- 
nal opera for radio. This was produced in 1939, under the 
title "The Old Maid and the Thief." The performance in 
fourteen scenes occupied one hour, and tells the escapades 
of a young roustabout who imposes on an old maid who be- 
friends him and he finally makes off with all her worldly 

Sponsor Conflict 

The battle between the highbrow and the lowbrow in 
musical taste continues. The lowbrow is ready at all times 
to wield the cudgel against the artist and the sponsor, not 
knowing where to place the blame. The lowbrow cries 
out that the artist is prostituting his art when he condescends 
to sing "Danny Deever" instead of "Lucia." 

MUSIC 127 

Marcia Davenport voicing the plaint of the highbrow be- 
lieves that the artists do not sing their best on the radio 
programs. They all sing what they are asked to sing. Most 
of what they are asked to sing is tripe. Lawrence Tibbett 
includes in his popular classical songs such ballads as "Old 
Man River," "Annie Laurie" and "The Last Round-Up." 
Reinald Werrenrath never allows his music to get beyond 
the understanding of his audience. He clings to songs of a 
popular nature such as "On the Road to Mandalay" and 
sponsors who study audience interests see that the stand-bys 
are included in the repertory of Rosa Ponselle, Nino Mar- 
tini, and John Charles Thomas. Lawrence Tibbett takes 
issue with those who take him to task for "wasting" his fine 
voice on popular selections. When he feels he should sing 
a simple melody for those of his listeners who do not appre- 
ciate classical selections no one can change his mind. Simple 
melodies require as much artistry as the arias of the opera. 

Subjective reactions evidently tell us less about what is 
"in the music" than about our own attitudes towards life and 
towards music as a part of it. Undoubtedly when we attempt 
to judge the nature of music and its place in the world solely 
on the basis of subjective reactions, thrills, pleasure and pain, 
we are led into endless contradictions. 

Marcia Davenport complained of the lack of variety and 
balance of sponsors' music programs. There is such a con- 
gestion of "good" music over the week end and such a con- 
centration of plugged jazz daily in the week, that you get a 
surfeit of both things just when the choicest programs of each 
type come. She suggests a Radio Utopia where somebody 
with the best of musical judgment, commercial and enter- 
tainment value would act as general arbitrator of time and 
distribution over the air like the movie and baseball czar. 
Miss Davenport forgets she is dealing with an art. Her plan 
smacks of dictatorship over public taste. 

Arthur Bodansky answered the question of "shall there 


be a musical dictator?" in no uncertain terms: "You cannot 
build a musical nation from the top down. You cannot turn 
out a handful of professionals and cry, 'People, these are 
your leaders. Follow them and be musical!' It works the 
other way about. When you can point to a nation of music- 
ally interested citizens and say, 'These are your leaders!' 
the professionals will take care of themselves." 

Review Your Technique 


The microphone is a mechanical electrical ear, and has 
no sense of discrimination. It faithfully reproduces all the 
sound that reaches it. The listener at an orchestra concert 
can focus attention on musical sounds and exclude extrane- 
ous noises such as sneezes, coughs, reverberations. Not so 
with the microphone. It hears all and tells all. IT MUST BE 
SOUNDS. The primary rule is to place it near the orchestra. 
If it is placed near the orchestra, the next problem is: Does 
it pick up the right amount of sound from each instrument? 
Balance is the picking up of the right amount of sound from 
each instrument. 

The more desirable qualities of voice are those of richness, 
flexibility, smoothness and mellowness. To achieve such 
effects depends on the power and quality of the voice, the 
acoustics of the studio, and the correct position before the 
mike. Rules for the guidance of singers include: 

1. Do not be subject to the temptation to huddle the 
mike unless you are a crooner. Center up on the micro- 
phone; stand twenty or thirty inches away. 

2. Get the right mental attitude by assuming an easy 
stance. An easy balance is secured by placing one foot ahead 
of the other. 

3. Move closer to, and farther away from the mike as 

MUSIC 129 

you graduate in voice volume. On high notes, move away, 
on soft tones, come closer. 

4. In group singing, as in quartette, best effects result 
if each singer stands the same distance from the mike. If 
one voice stands out too prominently when this is done, a 
better balance is obtained by moving that voice farther from 
the mike than the others. If one member of the quartette 
sings a solo, it is important that this member move closer to 
the microphone than the rest. 

Lawrence Tibbett keeps the control men on their toes 
every minute. He is likely to "blast," especially when sing- 
ing such a selection as "Glory Road" which is full of danger- 
ous peaks and ejaculations. Richard Crooks sings less turbu- 
lent selections and therefore he is much more placid at the 

If the prima donna stands in one place when delivering 
a bravura, the engineer's task is simple, but if she walks 
around the stage and shifts from one mike to another, the 
mixer gets busy. The microphone is kindest to the naturally 
beautiful, smooth voice. The singer who knows how to ad- 
just her own instrument need not fear the engineer. 

On the air, crescendos built up with impressive effect by 
the singer, must be doctored by the engineer else they will 
be received by the ear as distorted sounds. As the voice in- 
creases in volume, its dissonant harmonic content grows 
in proportion, while at the same time the fundamental har- 
monic content does not increase correspondingly. The aver- 
age ear refines or mixes these two tones. The microphone 
does no mixing but merely transmits what it hears. If the 
listener were seated at the Opera House he would be un- 
aware of any such distortion, but at the receiving end of the 
radio the ear would tell him something is wrong. 

For dramatic conquest of the audience, there is a decided 
tendency among prima donnas to employ too much voice on 


the upper notes. Sopranos on the top tones, especially, force. 
The singer must carefully watch his climaxes. He should 
tone them down considerably lower than he would on the 
concert stage. Otherwise the listener will be knocked over 
by one of those blasts that mar even the best recitals. 

Success on the concert stage does not necessarily mean 
success on the radio. A voice may carry across the nation but 
not be strong enough to reach the far end of a small audi- 
torium. The man in the control room remains master of 
volume and crescendo. 

Musical Self Control 

The fate of many a radio singer rests on the sensitive 
fingers and ears of the engineer who manipulates the con- 
trols. He is virtually the "conductor-engineer," who is able 
to ruin the career of the prima donna or bring her to super- 
human heights. The adjustment by the engineers of the rela- 
tive amount of the different elements of the sound to be 
transmitted is a matter far more subtle than it appears. It 
taxes both the knowledge and the taste of all concerned. 

Howard Traubman has given us a picture of "opera, front 
and back" during broadcasts. At the Metropolitan Opera 
House eight mikes are used, four of which are suspended 
over the orchestra and four placed in the footlights, in pairs 
about one quarter length of the stage rim from the sides. 
Each pair of footlight mikes consists of a close perspective 
and a long perspective mike; the close perspective picks up 
tones from a singer standing by. The long perspective 
catches the singing in the background. The overhead or- 
chestra mikes are placed at two levels, one pair close to the 
orchestra. Thin tones come in on the close perspective mikes, 
crescendos and fortissimos on the long perspective mikes. 
All of these eight mikes are connected with the control 
board known as the "mixer" housed in one of the boxes on 

MUSIC 131 

the grand tier. From this box, the engineer can watch the 
singers and the conductor. 

An interpretative artist, Charles C. Gray, manipulates the 
control at the Metropolitan. He has a sensitive ear, can 
tune in on any or all the mikes, and create the blend of tone 
which makes the listener glory in opera. He can make a 
bleating soprano out of a Flagstadt by tuning in the closest 
mike and stepping up the juice. He carries effects of balance, 
quality, and dynamics, in the interplay of voice, chorus and 
orchestra. At his side is his production man, Herbert Liver- 
sidge, who reads the score some six bars ahead and keeps 
the control man posted with hand signals on who or what 
is coming, a thumb-forefinger for female soloists, a single 
raised finger for men, two for duets, all five for choruses, a 
clenched fist for the whole works. The control man watches 
the signals ready to take out squeals from coloraturas, dis- 
tortion out of tenors and ear splits out of ensembles. 

The man at the controls is the ear of millions. He should 
be an artist in his own right. The man at the controls came 
to the rescue of many a prima donna whose voice bogged 
down in a series of florid passages. The three thousand of 
the radio audience may suffer but the radio fan remains un- 
aware of the difficulty. The mixer simply pulls up the orches- 
tra and obscures the cracking voice. He could, of course, let 
the singer do her worst, or make her worse than she really 
is by increasing the power at that point where her voice be- 
gins to crack. 

In the case of duets, the male voice is best heard if it is 
placed behind the soprano. If Lawrence Tibbett does not 
take a position behind Lily Pons, his baritone would stand 
out in greater prominence. The control man more easily 
blends the tones and makes for more agreeable quality over 
the speaker. 

When a vocal ensemble sings as part of a radio orchestra, 
the chief problem is "miking" in such a way that the mixing 


of voices with instrumental music doesn't become confusing 
in other words, so that they blend, yet at the same time 
are separate and distinct. As a rule the whole arrangement 
is made by one man, not by specialist assistants who work 
from a general sketch. The style of arrangements changes 
frequently and it is necessary for a radio orchestra to have 
large music libraries. 

"For a singer with a smooth voice, the engineer or con- 
trol operator can make the voice sound on the radio just as he 
bids," says the noted tenor, Richard Crooks. "He can make 
the voice of little volume ring with the boom of a Caruso or 
can muffle a voice of stupendous proportions. I have seen 
the man at the controls put the pedal (soft) on Martinelli 
to such an extent that he sounded like a lyric tenor." 

Orchestra Set-up 

The problem of picking up the right amount of sound 
from each instrument is what the engineer refers to when 
he talks about "balance." The loudness of any instrument 
as picked up by the microphone depends upon three things: 
(i) distance from the microphone; (2) its position relative 
to the sensitive face of the microphone; (3) the loudness of 
the instrument itself; (4) the directionality of the instru- 
ment. The violin radiates tone equally in all directions. 
The volume of a trumpet as it affects the ear depends upon 
whether one is in front of it or behind the bell. 

The first violins are at the extreme right and are easily 
picked up because of their penetrating sound. Violas and 
cellos are in the center and give a rich middle tone to broad- 
cast music. The horns and woodwinds are favored next to 
the stringed instruments. On the outer edge of the circle 
are the horns, trumpets, and percussion. 

The proper height of the microphone can be determined 
by experimentation. For a small orchestra try it at a height 

MUSIC 133 

of five feet. For a larger one try it at a height of six to eight 
feet. In a live studio, the microphone should be lower than 
in a dead studio in order to cut down reverberation. When 
there is much reverberation, the microphone should be 
placed closer to the orchestra. The microphone is usually 
placed between the orchestra leader and his musicians but 
to one side. 

Radio is guilty of sugar coating music and adopting fam- 
ous symphonic melodies to song forms as did Sigmund Rom- 
berg when he wrote "Song of Love," Franz Schubert's "Un- 
finished Symphony." No crime, say the Modernists, to pre- 
sent great melodies in simple form so that larger numbers 
of people may enjoy them in dance and song. How was this 
effected? Philip Kerby in the North American Review pays 
tribute to radio. "First," he says, "simple melodies are played 
which later are interpolated as themes from some of the 
greatest symphonies. It suddenly becomes a game in the mind 
of the youthful listener who acquires his three musical B's 
Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with much greater ease 
than the three R's. Desire to imitate sounds coming over the 
air accounts for the child's sudden interest in picking out 
the opening bars of the Chorale of Beethoven's Ninth on 
the family piano . . . when wild horses could not have 
dragged him to practice his five finger exercises." 

This and other similar programs have undoubtedly had 
a cumulative influence over the music appreciation habits 
of the nation during the past decade. For certainly the atti- 
tude of the public toward the standard classics has under- 
gone a complete turn-around and the blatant jazz of 1920 
is laughable today. Whatever you may think of swing, Benny 
Goodman has brought to popular music a virtuosity on clar- 
inet which many symphonic instrumentalists envy. 

"Musical education," says John Erskine, "ought to reach 
three classes. It ought to reach the highest talented artist, 
the amateur who, according to the measure of his ability, 


will try to be an artist, but who will sing or play for fun, 
and a still larger class of men and women, who, without 
taking an active part in music, love it, and can listen to it 
with intelligence." 

Josef Hoffman will not play down to his public. Albert 
Spalding and Stokowski have never departed from standards 
of highest excellence in the selection of program numbers. 

This alliance of the popular with the classic on popular 
programs even went so far as to suggest an appearance of 
Bing Crosby with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia 

There is no guarantee of the consistency of an important 
series of concerts. Program policy veers with the wind over 
the seasons. Spring and summer may find it devoted to 
classics, and then in fall instead of symphonic programs the 
leader falls back upon ballet music, light songs, and hack- 
neyed material. 

Commercial programs or orchestral music such as Gen- 
era Electric hour under Walter Damrosch occasionally in- 
clude a single movement of a popular Symphony but chiefly 
numbers like Rubenstein's "Melody in F," Massenet's "Ele- 
gie," Handel's "Largo," Delibes' "Sylvia." 

"Only gradually can ears become more and more capable 
of perceiving and enjoying combinations of musical tones," 
said Walter Damrosch. This is the philosophy that moulded 
the efforts of the director of NBC's Music Appreciation 
Hour. Dr. Damrosch, through his musical series, has done 
much to overcome indifference that marks the average atti- 
tude toward music. It has been estimated that he reaches 
more than six million listeners in schools alone. Children 
have been enabled to learn the difference between clarinet, 
flute, oboe, and trumpet. 

Children, who at one time heard nothing but common 
place songs indifferently played upon tinny pianos, have 

MUSIC 135 

now been introduced to the masters. The musical taste of 
this country is rapidly developing to a demand that desires 
the very best. 

Children's Musical Taste 

If parents would begin to acquaint their children with 
the language of music at the same time and in the same way 
that they are developing familiarity with actual language, 
that is, by ear, the eventual work of the music-teacher 
would become far simpler. It can be done either through 
phonograph records and the careful selection of radio ma- 
terial, or by personal performance on the part of the parents. 
"Music," according to Gertrude Atherton, "rushes in where 
intellect fears to tread." 

Some of our broadcasters are beginning to discover a way 
of simplifying the formal complexities of music in a highly 
entertaining fashion. The trick is to take a well-known 
melody and develop it with all the technique of a serious 
composition. Since the tune is already familiar, the average 
listener has little difficuty in following it through various 

Sigmund Spaeth, the tune detective, has traced some of the 
most popular music to the classics. The theme of Chopin's 
"Fantasia Impromptu" was used as a tune for "I'm Always 
Chasing Rainbows" which radio established as a vogue. "Yes, 
We Have No Bananas" had its origin in the mighty "Halle- 
lujah Chorus" of Handel's Messiah. Radio has made classic 
tunes familiar thru the popular mold without the classical 
tag. There are those who trace the improvisation of swing 
to the time of Handel in the eighteenth century and call 
modern "hot" selections merely dime novel interpretations. 

Leading composers have long used syncopated rhythm. 
Witness Debussy's "Golliwog's Cake-Walk." Stravinsky's 
"Petrushka," Satie's ballet "Parade," the second movement 
of Ravel's violin sonata. 



The hillbilly seems to have taken permanent root in radio. 
Hillbilly songs predominate on the air. 

The term "hillbilly" in its purest sense refers to the poor 
whites, who, by choice or necessity, till small farms in the 
hill lands of North Carolina and other states. Economic 
disadvantages keep them illiterate but they have a rustic 
keenness of a sort and a philosophical outlook on life that 
makes them an object of admiration to the thinkers. 

Hillbilly music has come to be regarded as strictly Amer- 
ican folk music. The range includes negro spirituals, moun- 
tain songs, cowboy songs, lumber-camp jingles, adaptations 
of popular songs and once-current hits, and paraphrases of 
old English ballads. In the strictest sense the mountaineer 
ballads are old English folk songs, some of them even trace- 
abe to old Gregorian chants; and as such they are not strictly 
American products. 

Hillbilly songs cover the gamut of human emotions. They 
tell of "Innocent Convicts," "Train Disasters," "Delightful 
Murders," "Mother Love," "River Tragedies," "Misunder- 
stood People," "Died-for-love People," "Charming Bandits," 
in fact, every subject under the sun is covered. 

Successful hillbilly singers sing in phrases, regardless of 
the melody; and will stop to breathe whenever they darn 
please, even though it means adding several more beats 
to a measure. The average hillbilly singer sings by ear, plays 
about three chords in a key, becomes "class" if he plays four 
chords, and is a positive genius when he masters six chords. 
He will invariably change a melody just so he can inject 
some of his fancy chords. 

Certain songs like "The Last Roundup" become hits be- 
cause of sheer melody or novelty. "The Last Roundup" was 
a haunting variation from the blue songs and the torch 
songs of the period. Whether the words have more to do with 

MUSIC 137 

the song hit than the music, there is a question answered 
with vigor on both sides. Some singers give the melody 
everything and mumble the words. The hillbilly tune is 
destined to remain with us. Radio has been enriched by a 
wealth of songs. 

In the Ozark region, without movies and without a radio, 
the mountaineer finds a means of expression in the homely 
melodies he plays. Most every cabin contains at least one 
guitar, and on this instrument, which is as common as the 
hoe or shovel, every member of a mountaineer family can 
strum, easily carrying a tune in the minor key. 

The Crooner Arrives 

The appeal of the lullaby melody led to the development 
of the crooner. The crooner generally has a flexible and 
well-controlled voice. To accomplish those warm, resonant 
and intimate vocalizations, the crooner sings across a micro- 
phone a few inches away from his mouth. At such close 
range every breath in-take, every pitch variation and the 
very gasp of the singer permeates the room of the listener. 
To cloud the sibilant sounds, a simple device is tried: The 
crooner opens the mouth slightly wider than usual to pro- 
duce the "s" sound and then sharply chops off the sibilant. 
Singers of the blues, "torch songs," heat songs, and hillbilly 
numbers often need generous amplification of their voices. 
The control man is their best friend. 

The word "crooner" has become a somewhat jocular term 
to denote mournful or unpleasant noises. The injection of 
this type of song into dance music was taken very seriously 
by a large number of listeners. One dictionary defines 
"crooning," as low, monotonous manner of singing. Another 
emphasizes its "moaning sound, as of cattle in pain." 

The best exponents of crooning are Rudy Vallee and 
Bing Crosby. The secret of crooning lies in its intimate per- 


sonality singing. The untrained voice generally retains en- 
dearing qualities. People react more sensitively to singers 
who are trying to do their best and the very crudities of the 
voice greet the listener with a surprising effect of sincerity. 

Bing Crosby's voice personality might have been destroyed 
by vocal training. From the technical standpoint his voice 
is said to have remarkable range covering the tenor and 
the baritone. His adaptability is surprising. He can shout 
out volume in a fast swing number, croon a slow, senti- 
mental tune, or render a Robeson spiritual "straight." The 
word, "crooning," is inseparable in meaning from lullabies 
hummed by negro mothers. Some psychologists believe that 
crooning lavishes maternal instinct upon those who listen, 
and that male listeners find female crooning has the effect of 
a sedative in addition to its protective embrace. The haters 
of crooning are the cerebrotonics who like their emotions 
underdone. Many listeners are annoyed by sentimentality 
that seems unworthy of the intellectual spirit. 

Experts call attention to the subtoning used in crooning. 
The simplest example of this technique is found in the 
much maligned crooner who whispers into the microphone 
so softly that nobody in the studio can hear him above the 
orchestra, yet his voice is clear and strong to the listener 
at the set. This same principle is employed in the use of 
muted instruments. A heavily muted trombone, trumpet; 
or clarinet, is brought up does to the mike, playing so 
softly that even the conductor cannot hear it, yet on the air 
its gentle tone predominates over the fortissimo of the ac- 

The crooner is in the same category as certain subtone 
instruments that carry only ten feet without a microphone. 
When sound vibrations are turned into electrical frequen- 
cies, it is only a matter of amplification to change a sob into 
a roar. "It isn't the crooners' voices that are bad," it was 
once said apologetically, "it's their style. If only they'd stop 

MUSIC 139 

sobbing." Crooning gives the sound color. Color has been 
defined by Harold Barlow, the conductor, as "the difference 
between Lawrence Tibbett and Bing Crosby singing the 
same note." 

Blue songs must be added to the gay and frolicsome tunes 
to lend that contrast which the ear craves. The doleful note 
was struck by "Stormy Weather" and "The Last Roundup." 
The maudlin ballad with its insistent repetitious note creeps 
into the hearts of hosts of listeners. 

American crooners refuse to identify themselves with the 
word crooner. The British are more sensible and admit there 
is such a thing as soft singing. 

There are crooners and warblers of the "Bird Song" from 
"Pagliacci"; heroic interpreters of "Home On the Range"; 
tender voicing of "Who is Sylvia?"; robusto roars of the 
"Toreador Song." Musical literature is literally ransacked 
for the melodies that can tickle the popular ear. The older 
the song, the better. Ethel Waters was the first to achieve 
stardom as a radio singer. Her voice crooning "Stormy 
Weather," cleared away the clouds of heartbreak and disap- 
pointment. Her powerful suggestibility in voice found echo 
in the minds of many listeners. The vogue was continued 
by Ella Fitzgerald, a negro vocalist of Chick Webb's Band, 
who, having exhausted Stephen Foster, took to nursery 
rhymes. Amongst her most popular renditions were, "A Tis- 
ket, a Tasket," which clung to the senses like some breezy 

Maxine Sullivan, a colored girl, in 1939 conceived the idea 
of singing "Loch Lomond," to swing time. Her rendition 
was a colossal success and she established a vogue of swing- 
ing Scotch ballads on every radio station in the land. She 
got the idea as a waitress. When she cleaned up she would 
sing softly in order not to attract attention. 

There are isolated groups in all sections of the world pre- 


pared to fight to the death to prove that Maxine Sullivan, 
from the Onyx Club, is a greater artist than Lily Pons. 


Before 1912 the popular songs were simple, straightfor- 
ward songs. Choruses linked the verses that told some sort 
of human story, or episode. The thing called Ragtime sped 
over the land about 1912. Its fever crossed the Atlantic to 
England. Its rhythms were novel and audacious, jerky, stac- 
cato. This was the era of "Alexander's Ragtime Band," 
"Everybody's Doing It," and "Hftchy Koo." Ragtime sur- 
vived the war and developed into jazz. Jazz shot up the 
thermometer and became hot, and hot music became swing. 

Radio widened Tin Pan Alley into vast avenues of new 
exploration. Tin Pan Alley proceeded to raise the roof from 
orthodox forms and musical prejudice. Radio has had very 
little effect on popular music in the last fifteen years. The 
lyrics of popular songs tend toward more sophistication 
than in 1920. There are still thirty-two bars to the chorus 
of the average popular number. Ballads have swerved from 
generalized philosophy to a particular philosophy. The torch 
singers' plaint is now a tale of personal woe. 

Love is a perennial theme. And as most motion pictures 
are about love, most songs follow the theme. There is a 
plentiful sprinkling of moons and hearts, and kisses, and 
somebody's arms. The trouble is that America is turned into 
a land of melancholy women whose love is unrequited; an 
epidemic of Helen Morgan's wail in minor chords that they 
"Can't Help Lovin' That Man." Libby Holman started a 
mode with her "Moanin' Low" manner of singing "Body 
and Soul" that ushered in the era of the torch singer. 

Bing Crosby admits the torch songs are popular especially 
with the youngsters. They serve as an outlet for the emotions 
of boys and girls or for a love affair. "The kids," says he, 

MUSIC 141 

"going through a love affair can wreathe themselves into 
songs about 'you and me' they are really imagining them- 
selves making love to the particular Somebody when they 
sing 'I Surrender, Dear.' The era of depression brought 
forth such songs as "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" 
"Happy Days," and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" 
which became popular because they reflected the state of 
mind of the vast masses of the people. Humanity likes to 
share its common experience with the key words and the 
key melodies of its representative singer before the micro- 

"The world tendency today," prophesied George Anthiel, 
"is toward music that is simple, more melodic and tonal. 
Songs must have something so simple and fundamental in 
them that they never get out of the ear once they are in." 
In this point of view he is seconded by that prolific writer of 
hits, Irving Berlin, who says: "There will always be the last- 
ing appeal of the straight popular song. Here, however, there 
is nothing new either, at least lyrically. Only the words are 
new, and the words of a song are all-important, for the 
melodies linger on, but it is the words that give the song the 
freshness and life. It is only once in a while that someone 
comes along with a new tune; they all follow the same gen- 
eral pattern, but the words are what really count." For radio 
then, there is no formula for writing a song that will appeal, 
from jazz to sentimental ballads, to sophisticated musical 
comedy compositions. 

The microphone pounces on a new tune and within six 
weeks exhausts it for the popular ear. Writers cannot hope 
to satisfy the demand. Radio can never kill songs that have 
a right to live, songs that have found a warm spot in the 
heart. Such productions as "I've Got Rhythm," and "A 
Japanese Sandman," remain endearing, though mellow 
with age. 



The most active unit of radio is the dance band. Day and 
night it is on the air to lull the country into contentment or 
rouse it from its lethargy with the persistent drum beat or 
whoops of saxophones. 

Most of the band leaders owe their success to broadcasting. 
Until the advent of radio their popularity was confined to 
the areas of the honky-tonk dance hall. Today they have be- 
come household gods from one end of the land to the other, 
slowing up or quickening their tempo to satisfy an admiring 

Radio invariably demands a distinctive style of its favo- 
rite bands. Guy Lombardo has throbbing saxophones; 
Wayne King, sentimental, slow waltz tempo; Ray Noble, 
"collegiate hot," Madriguera, tango music; Louis Prima is 
"high priest of the trumpet"; Hal Kemp, the staccato type of 
music, reminding you of the rhythmic clicking of railroad 
wheels. The search for novel effects reaches far and wide. 

Tom Dorsey specializes in "sweet" music, but his band 
can swing into frenzied tempo to match the others. It is the 
trombone of the leader that lends its mellifluosity to the 
calmer and more sustained rhythms which characterize his 

Benny Goodman "Apostle of the Swing" continues to be 
the most popular and highest-salaried exemplar of that art. 
The Harlem rhythms are too intricate and too brutally 
rhapsodic to attain a strong radio appeal. 

Paul Whiteman made a drastic change in his orchestra in 
1938, cutting out a portion of his string section and putting 
in more saxophones and woodwinds to take care of the 
swing. It is possible to make a saxophone laugh and play 
and weep. 

Lovers of soft music altho' passionately devoted to the 
style, may, as a sort of concession, listen to the swingsters. 

MUSIC 143 

The jitterbugs, however, close their ears to the seductive 
strains of the "schmaltzers." 

For over ten years no bands have threatened the suprem- 
acy of Guy Lombardo and Wayne King. 

In the last decade, from 1927 to the present day, these 
famous names musically affected the dance taste throughout 
the country: Paul Whiteman, Rudy Vallee, Will Osborne, 
Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo, Wayne King, 
Richard Himber, Duke Ellington, Cab Galloway, Shep 
Fields, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Gray. 

In 1929, Rudy Vallee emerged as the radio idol. So did 
Will Osborne. Both initiated "crooning" styles in song and 
ushered in the "cheek to cheek" dancing trend. Guy Lom- 
bardo's syncopated rhythms added sprightliness to the dance 
step. In 1930 and 1931 Richard Himber, disciple of Rudy 
Vallee, was the first to employ a harp in a dance orchestra. 
He abolished announcement between musical numbers 
played on the air. 

The "rippling rhythm" of Shep Fields was hailed as a 
newcomer in 1936. A staccato, pulsating rhythm, it is said 
to have brought into being the "shag." Guy Lombardo em- 
ployed the flute as an obligate against the trumpet. 

The jazz craze lasted so long that it gave its name to an 
age. It was the war and post-war age. Damon Runyon says: 
"There was a period between jazz and swing when our na- 
tional nuttiness simmered down to novelty bands and soft 
symphonic dance music. It was the calm before the swing 
storm and though the musicians tell you that swing is really 
older than jazz, there is a newness to the violence of the cur- 
rent craze that is more violent than any other similar craze 
we have ever known." 

Doctors of symphony are generally too optimistic in ap- 
praising the power of radio over the musical tastes. In 1938, 
it was the "June" and "moon" types that sold any number 
of copies. "Chapel in the Moonlight" was at the head of the 


list, with four hundred thousand copies. Amongst the fifteen 
best sellers was, "Moonlight and Shadows" and "Sailboat in 
the Moonlight." The sure-fire ingredients of a popular song 
seemed to be the moon and a boat. Not one song by such 
sophisticated writers as Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern 
and Irving Berlin equalled in sales the corny ditties. 

Band leaders have made significant attempts to make 
serious music out of swing. Ferde Groffe's "Grand Canyon 
Suite," achieved popularity some years ago. George Gersh- 
win was child of the age of radio and mass entertainment. 
He caught the spirit of America in his "Rhapsody in Blue," 
and made music fascinating to the masses because they could 
understand it. 

Hot jazz grew out of spirituals, blues, ragtime and work- 
songs of the Southern negro. Geographically it appeared in 
Memphis, Mobile and New Orleans where the Original 
Dixieland Jazz Band was organized in 1900. Young white 
men caught the spirit of jazz in Chicago. Bix Biederbecke, 
master of the cornet and piano, became the evil genius of 
the new medium. Benny Goodman at the age of thirteen was 
an apostle at the feet of Louis Armstrong, one of the pio- 
neers of the jazz movement. The Chicago style of hot jazz 
is a style which has a contemporary feeling as exemplified 
in Bix Biederbecke's "Davenport Blues." 

Each artist excels in his own special way and appeals to 
a following which worships his special technique. A debate 
on the relative merits of Berlin and Beethoven is like a de- 
bate on the relative merits of the apple and the pear. Each 
is as you like it. 

Tommy Dorsey once produced on the air a laboratory 
demonstration of the history of the development of swing 
in modern music. The program was aptly called "The Evo- 
lution of Swing." Representative numbers illustrated the 
life cycle. 

The first period was one of crude improvisation. The 

MUSIC 145 

middle period found jazz going through the expert refining 
processes of orchestration. Trained soloists began to flourish 
as part of the entourage. 

In this, our modern day, comes the return to the period 
of free improvisation added to the background of well- 
defined orchestration. The year 1900 found many orchestras, 
white and colored, playing jazz. These were small bands of 
the "dawn-age" of swing, great ragtime jazz orchestras like 
the Original Creole Band and the Olympia Band. Every 
man in these outfits played as the spirit moved him, and the 
final effect was often a wild cacophony of violins, mandolins, 
smaller wind instruments and percussion instruments. The 
Dixieland Band organized in 1909 exercised an important 
influence on the jazz impulse of modern music. It evolved 
a highly individualistic style the Dixieland style which 
is still employed. Their style is semi-harmonic. 

Pass now to 1920. Paul Whiteman dominates the middle 
age of jazz shortly after the World War. This is the period 
of the refining influence when the raw materials of old-time 
jazz, high degree of musicianship and orchestration become 
evident. Whiteman turns to the symphony and transmutes 
it into new rhythms which win applause from serious critics. 

Now, 1930. A new outburst of spontaneity is contributed 
by colored bands which resume their original leadership. 
The solo technique is more reckless than that used by white 
bandsmen. Stylisms identify a performance. 

We are definitely in the age of swing. Swing is divided 
into two classes: (i) 'le jazz grande,' which may be defined 
as orchestral swing; (2) 'le jazz intime,' swing music cre- 
ated by a smaller group, free to improvise to their hearts 
content, without being chained by manuscript. 

Swing has been defined as "a manner of spontaneous im- 
provisation around a given theme with a special regard for 
rhythmic contrasts." This presupposes a simple basic melody 
that appears often enough to have been established in mem- 


ory. Over this pattern of basic rhythm the players are per- 
mitted to weave inventive interpretations that stand out in 
melodic contrast. 

"Ad lib playing," is Artie Shaw's description of the music 
he or Benny Goodman play on their clarinets. "You may call 
it swing, if you wish," says Shaw, "but what does it mean 
jazz and not swing." 

Benny Goodman has let out some of the secrets of his 
method in the Pictorial Review article entitled, "Jam Ses- 
sion." He reveals that although most of the organization's 
work is improvisation, he holds frequent rehearsals and 
makes constant demands on his large library. He reveals: 
"The pianist is playing a solo. He is giving out the melody. 
I pick up my clarinet and play some figure on it which 
shows the band the kind of background I would like. I may 
then play a solo, while all the men accompany me in full 
harmony. Then one of the trumpeters signals to me that he 
is ready for a solo. I nod, and after a short interlude the 
trumpeter plays his variation on the melody, while all of us 
accompany him. So it goes until the possibilities of the tune 
are exhausted or the audience is." 

Chamber Music 

Music, one of the most stimulating of the arts, can also be- 
come one of the most interesting and most fatiguing as evi- 
denced by chamber music. Radio music is pretty well out 
of the knee-pants stage and is giving concerts of chamber 
music for those who can stand them. The taste for chamber 
music is of the highest and most eclectic form of music ap- 
preciation. The reason lies in the intellectual and deeply 
serious quality of the string quartet as a musical form. When 
the listener sits down to a festival of chamber music, it is not 
so much entertainment for him as spiritual sustenance. And 
oh, how he likes to be fed with the best! 

MUSIC 147 

There is a scarcity of radio broadcasts of chamber music. 
No music presents a greater musical intimacy or a more 
closely related expression of ideas. No other music outside 
of unaccompanied religious chorals can attain the spiritual 
eminence that chamber music offers. 

A farsighted initiative in radio has been taken by the 
NBC in establishing the Music Guild of Chamber Music. 
In this ensemble playing the very nature of this type of 
music is to reduce the element of vain virtuosity to a mini- 
mum and to increase the element of team work which is 
essential to an ensemble. 

The Guild has given opportunity to comparatively little 
known musical compositions. Such musicians keenly enjoy 
the chance given them by invisibility and comparative isola- 
tion, to forget themselves. 

Although there has been a recent heightening of interest 
in choral music, radio has generally neglected this form. 
The piano has come back into its own two, four, and eight 
hands provide sufficient novelty. George Gershwin showed 
himself at his best before the piano. His "Jazz Concerto in 
F," is something more than an abundance of notes laid on 
with an over-generous hand. 


Between the dark and the daylight, 
There comes from each radio tower 

A series of gentle broadcasts 

That are known as the Children's Hour. 

And the girls and boys are gathered 

To listen with bated breath 
To educational programs 

Of murder and Sudden Death. 


Then the air is athrob with sirens, 

As the ears of the Little Ones 
Tune in to the soothing echoes 

Of "gats" and of Tommy-guns. 

And the eyes of the kids are popping, 

As they listen and wait, perplexed 
By the educational problems 

Of who will be rubbed out next. 

Grave Alice and Laughing Allegra, 

And Harry and Dick and Tom 
Hear music of sawed-off shotguns, 

Accompanied by a bomb; 

And quiver and shake and shiver 

At the tender and pleasant quirks 
Of a gang of affable yeggmen 

Giving some "punk" the Works! 

And they listen in awesome silence 
To the talk of some mobster group. 

As they're opening up a bank vault 
With nitroglycerine "soup"; 

Oh, sweet is the noise of battle 

To the children's listening ears, 
As the guns of the detectives answer 

The guns of the racketeers; 

And these educational programs 

Will make the youngsters cower, 
And the night will be filled with nightmares 

Induced by the Children's Hour! 

Copyright, 1937, Pocket Book Pub. Corp., 420 Lexington Avenue. 


IN THE scheme of radio, children have been overlooked. 
Poor and forgotten orphan of progress, the child is at last 
coming into his birthright. Comprehensive studies are being 
launched to find out what kind of entertainment he enjoys, 
the number of hours he listens, and the effect of specific pro- 
grams on manners and habits. The problem will always be 
with radio as long as there is a sharp division between what 
parents think about radio programs and what their children 
think about them. 

While children's radio programs have not yet reached 
the stage of international discussion, many illuminating sur- 
veys have been made in this country. Just as in the case of 
the movies, it has been found futile to force children to feed 
upon educationally and scientifically planned programs 
which their elders believe would be good for them. Chil- 
dren automatically practice selection in entertainment and 
they know what they like and what they dislike. The judg- 
ment of children stands out in sharp contrast to that of their 
elders. Parents are put on the defense. Children glow about 
programs which are condemned as harmful in the formative 
years. Interests and the tastes of the parents, when fostered 
on the children, create civil war in the household. 

In recent surveys an attempt has been made to study the 
following problems: (i) What shall be the type and choice 
of programs? (2) How do their quality and character affect 
the growing personality? (3) Do children's programs conflict 
with the other activities of the child? (4) How shall mem- 
bers of the family adjust themselves to the child's interest? 

The type and choice of programs, if decided by the parent, 



arbitrarily stirs resentment. The motives for supervision 
and restriction cannot be easily explained to a child who ex- 
ults over his favorite program. Radio programs have a 
superior interest to the exclusion of other interests and activ- 
ities. The parent begins to view with alarm the fact that the 
loud speaker has made a slave of the child. Family conversa- 
tion is suddenly cut down. There is no time for reading, 
group games, creative play. The child may even escape from 
music practice and singing. 

The Child's Study Association of America was a pioneer 
in the attempt to secure thoughtful judgment on the sub- 
ject. Its results were obtained through questionnaires submit- 
ted to mothers all over the country. Some attempt was made 
to calm down the hysterical grievances and to provide con- 
structive analysis for ideal programs. In recent surveys the 
mothers made definite conclusions that radio was an un- 
qualified menace, made children nervous, developed fears, 
and created a taste for sensational nonsense. More than a 
quarter of those answering the questionnaire looked upon 
radio as a family boon that prevented quarrels, and gave 
children of varying ages enjoyment. Almost unanimously 
the mothers concluded that radio interfered with other 
activities, even bathing and taking meals. 

Surveys indicate that forty out of a hundred tune in for 
a half hour or more daily. Genuine and fairly sustained in- 
terest begins at the age of six. A conservative estimate makes 
twelve to thirteen out of a hundred confirmed radio fans. 

The Director of The Child's Study of America, Mrs, Sido- 
nie Matsner Gruenberg, is fair-minded in her judgment of 
children's programs. "It is beyond dispute that many of the 
programs are objectionable because they convey false or mis- 
leading sentimentalities, or because they murder the king's 
English or play too recklessly with elemental fears and 

Can't children be trained to exercise nice discriminations? 


When one program is rejected, to what substitute shall the 
child glue his ears? Even if the child could obey the fiat of 
his parent, radio might not have anything better to offer. 
The child seems to be the neglected orphan of the radio. 
The Women's National Radio Committee has entered the 
line of battle on behalf of the child. It has set down a defi- 
nite scale of judgment before it will lend the seal of approval 
to a chidren's radio program. Consider these demands: (i) 
Dignity of presentation; (2) freedom from objectionable 
slang; (3) no talking down to children; (4) no stilted lan- 
guage; (5) genuine informational material which stimu- 
lates the mind; (6) freedom from too exciting incidents 
which are likely to arouse a nervous reaction; (7) freedom 
from objectionable advertising, box-top and premium offers. 

It is agreed that there is something fundamental "beneath 
the child's craving for exciting episodes, gangsterism, terri- 
fying, unreal and impossible adventures, ghosts, blood and 
thunder melodrama, sentimental love, and harrowing mys- 
teries. Increased nervousness, fingernail biting, and general 
discord were also blamed on this "blood-curdling bunk" by 
parents who felt and hoped that it would soon be perma- 
nently tuned out of young America's auditory reach. 

One program of "The Shadow" had a demented doctor 
draining blood from his patients so that he could sell it 
at a neat profit. Nice sound effect on the children! 

The parent may disapprove of these excitements: the psy- 
chologist regards them as forms of vicarious adventure and 
substitute experiences for which the child feels an inner 
need. An analysis of the reason why The Women's National 
Radio Committee rejects certain broadcasts as unfit indicates 
that there is something rotten in the state of children's 
radio. These sore spots might be summarized as follows: 
Material too exciting to the nervous system; too much action 
crowded into a fifteen minute period; speech of the charac- 
ters unrefined, bad models, too rapid; abnormal situations 


beyond the range of children's activities; coinage of slang 
phrases deliberately introduced; a condescension in the gen- 
eral tone of the program that insults the intelligence of the 
average child; a climax that carries over, leaving the child 
in an over-excited state at the close of the broadcast. 

Irene Wicker has consistently won honors as one of radio's 
finest story tellers for children. Her art lies in her ability to 
make entertaining what most radio performers make dull. 
Her speech is mingled with songs of which she has composed 
several hundred. No one can hold the air so long without 
combing the field for interesting subject matter. The Singing 
Lady's research has taken her into the realm of nursery 
jingles; true stories based on historical facts; dramatizations 
of fairy tales; imaginative journeys to the sun, the moon, 
the stars; travel adventures of real children; true stories of 
famous characters; stories about man, and dogs that point 
out their devotion one to the other. 

The secret of Miss Wicker's success lies in her personality. 
She has the gift of a born story-teller. She seeks to capture 
the child's heart. Above all, it is the voice and song that carry 
sympathy, sincerity, warmth. Her power comes from an en- 
thusiasm which children feel. Her words come as eagerly as 
a child's. 

In the early days of the radio flocks of uncles, aunts, sand- 
men, big brothers and sisters took possession of the micro- 
phone to tell fairy tales and bedtime stories. Most of these 
programs were amateur mold. Radio soon discovered a more 
violent approach through blood and thunder sketches, ad- 
venture tales, and serial yarns that made the heart leap. 

In London uncles made their early appearance. Uncle Jeff 
would sit down at the piano and reel off tune after tune, 
while many of them invented out of their own heads as 
they rattled along the keys. Uncle Rex would join in with 
songs, and Uncle Caractacus told stories of his own devis- 


ing. The three uncles were very shortly joined by Miss Cecil 
Dixon who became known as Aunt Sophie. 

Uncle Don is regarded as the Dean of children's pro- 
grams. He began broadcasting in 1927 and is still on the air. 
He estimates that he has broadcast some five thousand pro- 
grams. His manner is quite the antithesis of The Singing 
Lady. His formula is generally that of a Director of a club 
which the radio listeners may join. His hearty laugh is syn- 
thetic which is a polite word for "phoney." 

Captain Tim Healy who appeared over NBC, spun fas- 
cinating spy yarns which attracted the imagination of the 
youth. By means of his radio club he enrolled over three 
million boys and girls in his Radio Stamp club. He told the 
story "behind the stamp." His voice was fresh and hearty. 
His gusto impressed boys as well as girls that he was a he- 
man. "Youngsters resent being talked down to," he ex- 
plained. "They are dead set against announcers overdoing 
their sales talk. They dismiss extravagant statements with a 
terse, 'just a lot of hooey'." 

The clamor for better children's programs has at last 
aroused the broadcasters. They could not afford to ignore 
the organized appeal from all parents' organizations. The 
net-works undertook experiments to derive a more happy 
formula for children's programs. Both NBC and CBS offered 
prizes in a national competition for the best children's 

The public realized that children's programs, if left to 
the haphazard plan of sponsors, cannot hope for sudden im- 
provement. It is vicious in principle to impress children 
with an obligation to buy merchandise in order to keep alive 
a program they enjoy. 

Opposition forces have already resulted in the formation 
of committees to evaluate programs, to engage in research, 
carry on psychological studies, and to present the experi- 
mental programs. It is recognized that the problem of chil- 


dren's programs is interlinked with our social life, making 
the closest co-operation necessary. A joint committee formed 
in 1933 is a forerunner of this new approach which takes 
the parenthood of America into consultation. This body con- 
sists of representatives of the American Library Associa- 
tion, Progressive Education Association, and The Child 
Study Association of America. Its first aim is to crystallize 
public interest, in the recommendations of parents' groups, 
educational boards, civic institutions, and other organiza- 
tions concerned in the welfare of the child. 

There will be a tough time ahead, trying to educate the 
sponsor by way of the advertising manager. Broadcasting 
companies are more amenable and cannot ignore the de- 
mand for experimental programs that represent the best 
thought of the educator. 

Sponsor programs for children in which children perform 
at best offer poor models for the youth to emulate. The 
Horn & Hardhart Sunday Morning Hour is just such a slap- 
happy medley of kid specialties in which children evidently 
can do nothing more than indulge in taps, accordion and sax 
specialties and ape the sexy torch songs of their elders. People 
write in, vote for the child whose performance they liked 
best. The next week that child gets the cake. 

The Question Bee conducted for CBS by Nila Mack is a 
model of propriety. Children make up the audience. Milton 
J. Cross performs in the role of em cee for a kiddie program 
entitled "Raising Your Parents," and displays his native gift 
for bringing out the best in children. Here he considers with 
the youngsters such problems as inferiority complexes, over- 
active imaginations, comic strips, co-operation with brothers 
and sisters in the same household. What a wise papa to take 
these problems off mother's hands! 

One of the oldest children's programs is Madge Tucker's 
"Coast to Coast on a Bus," directed for NBC since 1924 and 
still running strong. The peculiar charm of "The Lady Next 


Door," as she is called makes Miss Tucker an actress in the 
roles she originates, writes, and directs for the juvenile artists 
she has on her roster. 

Irving Caesar, the song writer introduces a new note in 
his Songs of Safety, written in the ballad idiom of children. 
He has done altruistic work in this field. 

In July 1940 was inaugurated over NBC a "Quizz Kids" 
program in the manner of "Information Please" in which 
the experts are children from five to fifteen, vying for Alka 
Seltzer's prize of one hundred dollars worth of U. S. Bonds. 
The trio of youthful experts attracted the attention of the 
nation, spelling "heterogeneous," "bourgeois," and "antima- 
cassar" with definitions and identifying, "hog butcher to the 
world," and recounting in full the myth of Arachne. Normal 
kids exciting the admiration of man, woman and child. 
And do children love it! 

Experiments to determine whether or not young school 
children enjoy music that has an educational value were con- 
ducted sometime ago at the Lincoln School, Columbia Uni- 
versity, by members of the Junior Program Department 
of the National Music League. Music educators met for a 
round-table discussion after the concert and agreed that 
children have an "innate ability" to appreciate the finest 
in music, but must be educated to it gradually. The charge 
is made that this "innate ability" is neglected by the 

Leonard Liebling, the distinguished editor of the "Musical 
Courier" is of the opinion that "Some of the major sym- 
phony orchestras give special broadcasts for children, but 
such concerts are few and far between. As the music-lovers 
of the future are the youngsters of today, it would seem 
that more attention should be paid to their tonal education. 

"There is, of course, the Damrosch course, but it comes 
during school hours and figures as education rather than en- 
joyment. The period between five and seven o'clock usually 


finds children at home, when they are furnished with one or 
two exceptions chiefly with mystery and other thriller pro- 
grams, silly serials, trashy songs that are discounted by even 
infantile intelligence, and in fact with nearly everything ex- 
cept the best music." 

And Now the Drama 

Sufficient study has not been given to children's plays as 
an educational medium for radio. A great many failures of 
children's theaters of the air have been based on the false 
notion of the mentality of their audience. The plays have 
wavered between two extremes of the fairy-like type, and 
the attempt to make sermons of what should be pure enter- 
tainment which the child resents. Programs should be of 
interest to boys and girls between the ages of four and 
sixteen. No one can cover the age span of such an audience, 
but a varied program could have mass appeal. The plays 
may have an adult cast, a juvenile cast, or a mixed cast. The 
one hundred and twenty-seven theaters of the Jnnior 
Leagues can well give thought to radio as a medium for 
their expression. 

What to Do 

Angelo Patri, the educator, advises parents to share the 
radio with children: "Listen with them. Don't impose 
grown-up's programs on children under twelve years of age 
because they do not understand them. Turn off the pro- 
grams which seem to harm the children and write to the 
sponsors immediately. Don't expect the Government to do 
for you what you can do with a movement of the finger, a 
note with a stamp." 

It has been established by many studies that children 
can be trained to exercise nicer discriminations, and that 
the way to this end is not by direct fiat of the parent whose 


tastes are mature. The fault lies with the sorry alternatives 
that children's programs at present offer. 

An eight-point formula was presented for children's pro- 
grams at a meeting of the Radio Council on Children's 
Programs and the representatives of the NAB in 1940. It 
provided that children's programs be entertaining, dramatic 
with reasonable suspense, possess high artistic quality and 
integrity, express correct English and diction, appeal to the 
child's sense of humor, and be within the scope of the child's 
imagination, as well as stress human relations for coopera- 
tive living and intercultural understanding and apprecia- 
tion. Some task! 

The Council was formed to bring about better children's 
programs, and is composed of the representatives of five of 
the largest women's organizations in the country with head- 
quarters at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York. 

Upon whom does the responsibility for children's pro- 
grams rest parent, broadcaster or sponsor? There has been 
a good deal of passing the buck. The Ladies Home Journal 
reports that a majority of the women of America believe 
that "It's up to the radio stations, not to the parents to 
protect children from programs that are too exciting or 
overstimulating." With radio so accessible to children out- 
side as well as inside homes, mothers find it impossible to 
supervise children's habits. 

Responsibility rests with the networks and the managers 
of local stations. The FCC should exercise a measure of 
control through its power to refuse to renew the broadcast- 
ing license. Best of all is the crystallized public opinion that 
affects the public interest. 

Carrie Lillie who directs WMCA'S juvenile programs 
claims that children have been brought up on blood and 
thunder tales for centuries, and points out the horrors con- 
tained in nursery rhymes about horrible giants, persecuted 
princesses, the unfortunate wives of Bluebeard, without any 


particular ill-effects. She opines that the young American 
listener could not be thrilled by any milder variety after 
an acquaintance with America's own system of gangsters, 
kidknapping and lynching. If the children had the power 
to know the right from the wrong, this might be all right. 

A new type of fairy tale is being evolved in the United 
States, in which the characters jump in rocket ships from 
planet to planet, use death rays and other creations of super 
science, says Clemence Dane, the English writer. Buck 
Rogers makes it possible to be projected into the twenty- 
fifth century to the planet Jupiter. 

Always "The Lone Ranger" is the hero of mystery ad- 
venture. He follows the ranchers, villains, outlaws, spies and 
dynamiters across the prairies and into secret caves. 
Parents approve the program because there is no boy in 
trouble, left tied up by the cannibals. (The boy projects him- 
self into the role of hero arid cannot sleep.) "The Lone 
Ranger" is on the side of the right and never fails to help 
the underdog. Few programs have had the success of "The 
Lone Ranger." Nightly he rides the kilocycles hurrying 
toward virtue and trampling crime and criminals under 

Shirley Temple has admitted that "The Lone Ranger" 
is her favorite program and Mrs. Roosevelt, wife of the 
President, wrote in her column: "The other evening I 
offered to read aloud to Buzz until bedtime, but there is a 
program on the air called 'The Lone Ranger,' which seems 
to be entirely satisfactory." But to whom, Mrs. Roosevelt 
did not say. 

Remember that adults take to the juvenile stuff. "The 
Lone Ranger" started as a show for the youngsters, but the 
grown-ups are probably just as ardent listeners. The wide 
appeal of "The Lone Ranger" for children is not a matter 
of guesswork. Before a program is taken to the studio, Fran 
Striker, the author tries it out on his two sons, eight and six. 


"Superman" comes on the air with a shrill, shrieking 
edict (the combination of a high wind and a bomb whine 
recorded during the Spanish war. Voices hail him: "Up in 
the sky look! It's a bird. . . . It's a plane. . . . It's 
SUPERMAN!" Mothers have their eye on him. His occa- 
sional rocket and space jaunts are too improbable for the 
Child Study Association of America. Superman has a sound 
effect about every four lines. 

The new Dick Tracy program went on the air endorsed 
by the Clergy League of America. The Minneapolis College 
Women's Club, a branch of the American Association of 
University Women, went so far as to petition "those people 
responsible for the production of the radio skit called 
'Orphan Annie,' praying that the sponsor remove objection- 
able features in the overdrawn dramatic crime episodes, the 
raucous, unnatural voices of the actors, and the coarse 
vocabulary, or better still to substitute therefore programs 
to stimulate the children's imagination in the right direc- 
tion." An identical petition was drawn up concerning the 
"Skippy" program. The sponsors turned a deaf ear to these 
petitions and the programs went gruesomely on. 

Educational Solutions 

Kurt London, in his highly revealing analysis of radio 
in the USSR, makes the claim that the quality of children's 
programs in Russia is very high: in fact, it is relatively 
higher than the "wireless for adults." 

The guiding principle of children's programs is the influ- 
ence on education by artistic means. Programs are varied 
to measure up to the appropriate stages of childhood. The 
first group includes children from five to eight years of age. 
Imagine synthetic pieces composed of dramas, readings and 
noises especially made for such youngsters. Take a typical 


program by which natural science is taught in a naturally 
amusing way, by the use of animal stories, or in dramatic 

Single themes such as the ''Adventures of a Potato," per- 
mit the child to catch a revelation of the natural world. The 
second group of programs is meant for children from eight 
to eleven years of age. Each program lasts about twenty to 
forty minutes and covers a wide variety: reading from books, 
children's operas lasting about twenty-five minutes, dealing 
with the life and experiences of the young. The third group 
is designed for children between the ages of twelve and 
fifteen. Here the field is widened. The radio authorities 
collaborate with the children's section of a composers' asso- 
ciation. The best composers create special music for chil- 
dren. Broadcast by the literary and dramatic departments 
they offer specially dramatized versions of such works as 
Dickens' "Pickwick Papers," and Longfellow's "Hiawatha" 
interspersed with music. True, the programs are not free of 
the idealism of a Soviet scheme. The life of the pioneers is 
vividly portrayed in fifteen broadcasts every month. And 
the children themselves are drawn upon as participants. 
They sing songs before the microphone and give readings. 

The growing generation of Soviet youth is thus favored 
with programs whose influence is artistic and cultural, and 
even though sugared with propaganda at least represents a 
distinctive appreciation of the needs of youth. 

In 1937 "Wilderness Road" won the award of the 
Women's National Radio Committee as a model children's 
program. It was regarded as an ideal dramatic serial but 
remained unsponsored. The work of Richard Stevenson and 
Charles Tazwell, it was a serial that had its locale along the 
old "Wilderness Road" formerly known as Boone's Trail. 
The serial followed the life of the Weston family father, 
mother, three sons and a daughter, negro servant, a carrier 
who brings mail and news from the outside, and Daniel 


Boone, friend and protector. The thousand first-prize serial 
of NBC was entitled "The Bravest of the Brave," selected as 
the most outstanding of seven hundred and forty scripts in 
1937. The action revolves itself around the valiant acts of 
men and women. With Daniel Boone as the protagonist not 
a single Indian hit the dust. The only Indian hurt slipped 
on a log. 

It is difficult to find the common denominator of chil- 
dren's interests. An exciting thriller which plunges one boy 
to the verge of hysterics will create, in another youngster, 
visions of power and success. Program reactions therefore 
are of a strong individual nature. 

Children do not think much of children's radio programs. 
The youthful listener is seldom interested in specially pre- 
pared programs for children. 

Sigmund Spaeth, the music critic, finds that the natural 
inclinations of children run towards fairly obvious music. 
The survey conducted by Azrial Izenberg questioning 
3,445,000 children in New York City schools reveals that as 
for music learned over the air eighty-five per cent of the 
children learned dance songs; seven per cent picked up cow- 
boy melodies; three per cent theme melodies; three per cent 
general melodies; and only two per cent classical and semi- 
classical music. 

A recent survey was conducted by the Chidren's Aid 
Society of New York among the ten thousand members of 
its juvenile clubs in seven centers. The survey was made 
among boys and girls between the ages of eleven and sixteen 
years. Ninety-two per cent of the boys and eighty per cent 
of the girls gave the adult programs as their first choice. 
Of the children's programs the youngsters picked the 
thrillers. And if it is feared young America has no sense of 
humor, it should be recorded that of the adult programs 
Eddie Cantor topped the list, followed by Burns and Allen, 
Jack Benny and Dick Powell. 


r I ^HE Amateur Hour has its root deep in human psychol- 
^_ ogy. It captured the imagination of youth, stirred the 
vanity of countless microphonic aspirants long past youth. 
For a time it commanded the largest radio audience. Why? 
Because it gratified man's sadistic sense for the incompetent, 
self-deceived, self-punishment meted to artists. It inflated 
the hopes of an army of crooners, tap dancers, one-man 
bands, whistlers and musical eccentrics of every variety. 

Major Bowes was a real estate operator in San Francisco 
at first interested in a small chain of theaters. He soon 
became a producer of plays. In 1918, he built the Capitol 
Theatre in New York, at that time the world's largest 
motion pitcure theater, of which he became director. 
Appreciating the power of radio publicity, the Major 
planned the Capitol Family broadcasts, which commenced 
on November 19, 1922, with the late S. L. ("Roxy") Rothafel 
as its master of ceremonies. Major Bowes, himself, took over 
these duties on the radio on July 25, 1925. After his entry 
into radio, the Major continued his directorship of the 
Capitol Theatre and became vice-president of the Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer pictures. As part of his duties for MGM, 
he was director of their local station, WHN, and when an 
amateur hour was started, Major Bowes undertook direction. 

The idea took some time to catch on before it reached 
the networks. It has its prototype in the amateur hour of 
the vaudeville theater where audiences could view their 
brassy judgment by crying out "Get the Hook." With the 
assistance of Perry Charles, Bowes hit upon the idea of 



subjecting the amateur performer to a razzing that would 
send the audience into peals of laughter. Whenever a bad 
amateur spoiled the show, Perry was inspired to use the 
same device heard at the ringside, the gong. Major Bowes 
invested the proceedings with the qualities which at the end 
of a year made it the dominant program in the New York 
area. A local station, one-fiftieth as powerful as the com- 
peting network station in Greater New York, commanded 
an audience estimated at 80 per cent of the listeners in the 
metropolitan district. 

Let us look to the elements that made the Amateur Hour 
of Major Bowes rise in the enviable scale of listener-interest. 
In 1935, the Chase and Sanborn Company angled for the 
program as a radio feature to be aired over the networks. 
They looked to Major Bowes, who resigned the management 
of WHN and took his Amateur Hour to the portals of NBC 
on an offer of five thousand dollars weekly. Thus, Major 
Bowes' Amateur Hour was ushered into national promi- 
nence along with the insistent plea that the purchase of 
Chase and Sanborn's dated coffee made good Samaritans 
out of the purchasers because the program held out the 
helping hand to native American talent. 

The rest is history. Major Bowes' Amateur Hour rose to 
stellar heights as Number One program of the air, a shining 
example which brought into being hundreds of lesser lights. 
It began the stampede of youth from every corner of the 
land into the citadels of NBC, where once admitted, they 
waited in a long narrow corridor, the chance for the micro- 
phone audition which would decide their fate. Under the 
aegis of the Bowes banner this broadcast leaped into na- 
tional fame. Late in 1936 Chrysler took over the sponsorship 
and the broadcasts were moved to the CBS radio theater. 

The dignified and pompous old Major reached his high 
peak in 1937 when radio surveys indicated that about 40 
per cent of the nation's radio sets were tuned in on his 


programs each week. From that time on, his Crosley rating 
began to dwindle down to about half, and yet remained 
high enough to belie the prediction that the amateur pro- 
gram would sniffle out. 

Network broadcasts of Major Bowes' Amateur Hour began 
in 1935. Up to the middle of October, 1937, the listeners 
made over two and a half million telephone calls in voting, 
according to statistics compiled by the American Telephone 
& Telegraph Company. Tampa, Florida, delivered the 
largest voters to any one amateur. Listeners in that city cast 
45,273 votes for a local boy singer. In New York more 
than one hundred and fifty telephone operators are busy 
recording the votes during the hour. The American public 
is afforded the right to vote for the best performers by tele- 
phone, and a special key city is honored by having a local 
telephone number put on a trunk line leading direct to 
the NBC studio in New York. 

The sponsor works in his exploitation and advertising. 
The three or four top performers at every weekly broadcast 
were employed to tour the country from Maine to Cali- 
fornia. These vaudeville units were known as "Major Bowes 
Amateur Hour." The minimum pay was fifty dollars per 
week and transportation; the maximum pay, one hundred 
and fifty dollars. Variety estimated that Major Bowes cleared 
for himself and his personal organization over a million 
dollars out of these units in 1935. 

When a city is selected to be the honor city, a representa- 
tive of the sponsor's advertising agency contacts the local 
exchange in advance and makes the arrangements. The 
honor cities are selected by the sponsor's advertising depart- 
ment each week. It is usually done according to popula- 
tion. One exception has been made to this rule. New York 
has never been on it. The city selected is linked by direct 
telephone long distance wire to the switchboard under the 
stage of the Columbia Playhouse in New York where the 


votes are tabulated and sent up to the Major for announce- 

There were more than two hundred other amateur hours 
scattered over the country, but none directed by such a 
genius of voice as that of Major Bowes. When the Major 
transferred the Amateur Hour from WHN to the networks 
an amateur hour was retained at the local station. It was 
necessary to find a substitute. Even with Major Bowes at 
his side Norman Brokenshire was quite inadequate in voice 
and spirit to be a Master of Ceremonies in such a program. 

The Major starts with the right premise an appeal to 
sympathy. Variety intimated that his agents scanned local 
amateur talent for the value of their sob story build up even 
before they were auditioned for their specialty. The dialogue 
is thus consistently written to bring out the peculiar talent 
in voice that drips with sympathetic timbre and is enriched 
by fatherly resonance. He chats with an informal ease. He 
shows an extraordinary precision. He knows all about the 
music-masters, the population of Katonah, the great in his- 
tory and story. 

Major Bowes, in defense of his program, speaks of "this 
new and higher-type of serious amateur added to the steady 
stream of self-taught and underprivileged amateurs." His 
point of view is that of the showman who seeks to give 
improved balance to the program, rather than from the 
altruistic standpoint of one nurturing real talent. 

Michael J. Porter, former aircaster for the American, 
said: "For every one of the scant two dozen amateurs who set 
foot on the road to glory, hundreds have turned their weary 
steps homeward or to the breadlines or to the Travelers 
Aid. Practically all of them took the cure. The amateurs 
seem to have made the astonishing discovery that there was 
practically nothing to write home about even after the 
impresarios supplied the stamps." 

There were dark rumors that many of the contestants 


were actually professional actors, singers, instrumentalists 
who appeared under the guise of amateurs for less money 
than they would receive for professional work. 

A statistician figured that the chance of acceptance on the 
Hour is one in seventy thousand, and at the end of it all 
lay the only certainty of a five dollar bill and one perform- 
ance. The Literary Digest estimated that the chances that 
any amateur performer would click professionally as a 
national find was two hundred thousand to three. 

The abnormal influx of amateurs into the City of New 
York taxed the relief authorities and made it necessary for 
the Major to restrict the applicants. 

It is a kindly voice that greets the amateur. The speech 
pattern is that of a loving uncle whose solicitude is enlivened 
by a chuckle. The voice kept under restraint warms the 
heart of the amateur with the glow of newly discovered 
sympathy. But alas! the gong of the Major often strikes 
chords of despair. Major Bowes has achieved a manner that 
to the uninitiated sounds informal. To the practiced ear, 
his folksy and ingratiating approach is synthetic. It is all 
part of the show business to sound humanly interested in 
your charges. 

In thirty seconds, avuncular and bland inflections estab- 
lish a relationship between the performer and the listening 
audience. This is indeed an art in itself. Listeners receive 
the impression that it is an unrehearsed program. Amateurs 
have glib answers, and the repartee appears deftly dove- 
tailed. However, these programs represent most careful 
showmanship and preparation. The amateur never reads his 
lines, and the Major sits behind a table with a box-like 
edge which effectively hides his cards and memoranda from 
the visible audience 

New technique covers up the sadism by a sentence or 
two of kind-hearted encouragement after getting a laugh by 


kindly ridicule. "What are you going to sing?" asks Major 
Bowes. "It's a sin to tell a lie in A flat," is the reply. 

A slender girl reveals that she is a prize-fighter by profes- 
sion forty-seven knockouts to her credit. And she adds, "I 
weigh a hundred and thirty stripped." "I'll take your word 
for it," says the Major graciously. 

There are many variations of the amateur hour. The 
recent trend sought the dramatization of authentic and ex- 
citing adventures of everyday people. Their best form was 
the command appearance program of Kate Smith, who 
combed the agencies of the land to discover men and women 
who had performed heroic deeds and had not received 
public recognition. Thus, she dramatized the heroism of 
one, Martin Wolgamuth of West Orange, a bus driver who 
risked his life to save his passengers from a mad dog. The 
program would stand by itself as a piece of dramatization, 
but when Kate Smith hands the hero or heroine five 
hundred dollars a touch of humanity is added. 

The Metropolitan Opera House found a rich field in the 
auditions of amateurs. Sponsored by Sherwin-Williams 
Paint, many candidates found a means of being heard. In 
1938, these auditions began and have continued ever since. 
The Metropolitan is genuinely or half-interested in the 
affair. Meanwhile the amateur singer keeps knocking at the 
door of opporunity. 

The great success of the Amateur Hour has been a 
puzzling phenomenon to the English. It was initiated over 
the British system, but did not survive long. 

The Outlet for Talent 

The larger stations readily receive for airing such pro- 
grams as are prepared by quasi-public or endowed institu- 
tions. It is part of the public service the broadcasters are 
presumed to offer as a condition of their franchise. Since 


these programs carry an endorsement of the institution, the 
performers generally are types selected by the faculties of 
music, drama, and the allied arts of composition. 

In similar fashion, the Radio Arts Guild of each com- 
munity could serve as an examining committee, for the 
amateurs without formal training in schools or academies. 
The local stations which air these programs can have faith 
that definite standards have been followed in their selection. 
The promise of lucrative contracts should never be held out 
alluringly to the amateur. Talent has a way of rising to the 
surface, and in the same way that Hollywood has its agents 
scouting for talent, so the extraordinary choice in separate 
individual communities might be heralded by appearances 
over the networks. 

Such a system requires altruism on the part of broad- 
casters. The broadcasters cannot afford to resent the sug- 
gestions of Radio Arts Guilds as obtrusive. Public sentiment 
once organized has a potent way of making itself known to 
the commercial broadcasters who are on tip-toe to please 
their public. 

The listening public, through its organized committees, 
might meet in convention at least once yearly in Washing- 
ton, D. C. A Central Listeners' Bureau might be set up in 
the National capital functioning through the local bureaus. 
The rights and privileges of the amateur might well be an 
important agenda in its discussions. 

Better yet, if the Central Listeners' Bureau could acquire 
the license and funds for maintenance of a model broadcast- 
ing station, it could indulge in experiments to its heart's 
content, blazing a trail for the commercial broadcaster to 

Directing the Amateur Show 

There is a trick in showmanship in running an amateur 
show. Much depends on the director. The director must 


know how to spot and spread his acts over the bill so that the 
hour is consistently diversified. 

Jay Flippen entered into the breach as em cee with an 
appropriate stir of low-boisterous comedy. This was the 
traditional atmosphere of all amateur shows. Any attempt 
to make it genteel robbed the show of its caste. Alton Cook 
calls Jay Flippen a "great wit, a veritable encyclopedia of 
what great wits have been saying for generations." The 
em cee propounds a question. While the amateur racks his 
mind for an answer, the em cee grabs a gag or two from his 
bag and jovially sends the audience into mirth and the 
amateur into song. 

The amateur hour has reformed its old habits. Pointed 
and embarrassing questions are avoided. The personal 
approach has more smoothness. The flow of wit is more 
merciful. Solemnity, it was discovered, is not germane to 
amateur shows. Radio itself is responsible for the growth 
in critical feelings of audiences and audiences are barome- 
ters of successful performance with harmonica, bazooka, 
xylophone, tap-dancing, and top notes. 

Radio pioneers usually result in a flood of imitations. 
Imitation becomes the sincerest flattery. The amateur hour 
soon became the greatest vogue in radio. 

Eddie Cantor once went into an amateur night when he 
was unknown and got the hook. In an interview with 
Morris Markey, in The New Yorker,, Major Bowes told how 
he protected himself against those angry lads who, when 
they heard the gong, might cut loose his resentment into the 
mike. "To protect ourselves, I have a good strong-arm man 
who hustles them up to the mike and down again. They 
always signal before letting the bell go, and he is ready to 
grab the poor boob before he can say anything about it. 
We've never had any profanity yet." 

Major Bowes springs a surprise by having famous per- 
sonalities in the audience take a bow before the mike. It's 


fun for the public to have an industrial nabob step up and 
play the harmonica, or rip a tune out from an old saw. 

The Feen-A-Mint National Amateur Night was captained 
by Ray Perkins. The money prize was alluring. Fred Allen's 
first prize was a fifty dollar bill with a week's contract for a 
stage appearance at the Roxy Theatre in New York, and a 
second prize of twenty-five dollars. 

Mutual Broadcasting System developed a national ama- 
teur night. They soon abandoned amateurs in all but name. 
Fred Allen's "Town Hall Tonight" followed suit by throw- 
ing over its amateur portion of the program to professional 
talent as well, but Major Bowes program remains the only 
practically one hundred per cent amateur program on 
the air. 

Fred Allen made it known that many of these amateurs 
are more temperamental than the stars. "For sheer ripsnort- 
ing temperament, I'll take the amateurs any day. Some of 
those lads and lassies, singers, pianists, imitators, etc., could 
give a matinee idol tips on artistic bombast." He tells the 
story of an Irish tenor who got mad because Fred called him 
'Eddie,' acidly insisting that his name was Mr. So-and-so. 
An applicant who had been successfully auditioned, wired 
at the last minute that he would not allow himself to appear 
on a program that featured such acts as a "singing rooster." 

The amateur has been lured on by press-agent yarns of 
sudden fame and fortune. Amateurs like to learn that Kate 
Smith time and time again was told that she was merely 
wasting her energies by trying to get into radio, or that Lily 
Pons was once refused after being auditioned. 

The variation of the amateur hour was Haven MacQuar- 
rie's program, "Do You Want to Be an Actor?" The candi- 
dates were chosen from the letters of application. They were 
put through an audition and the impossible types were 
dismissed. The survivors were told to come to the studio 


just before broadcast time. They were then put through 
their paces in a hypothetical drama before the mike. 

The main object of this program was farce-comedy. The 
aspiring amateur actor was made the target for cheap wit 
as he was interrupted with small jokes, to keep the pace 
lively. When one young lady said her name was Betty C. 
Green, MacQuarrie sallied, "Did you see anything else?" 
Jokes like that popped up during the program. The pro- 
gram had some virtues because many aspirants, after hearing 
themselves, usually decided that acting was not their right 

The number of those who have traced their fame to the 
radio amateur hour is almost zero. One points to Doris 
Wester who went into the films and changed her name to 

Radio can become the promised land of our younger, 
gifted performers, composers and conductors. Up to now 
their opportunities have been meager. The commercially- 
sponsored amateur programs have exposed them to contempt. 
Sponsors have ruled them out in favor of old-established 
names. Newer candidates are looked upon with suspicion. 
One cannot blame the sponsors for setting their sails to 
popular consumption. They are primarily business men 
not philanthropists interested in developing the Arts. Radio 
must break away from the position that has put the amateur 
hour into the field of comedy. The artistic impulse of any 
community can best be expressed through radio art guilds 
whose influence on radio programs can wield mighty influ- 
ence. These radio art guilds can take the radio amateur out 
of the Slough of Despond, can bring him out with a new 
impulsation to the hearts and the minds of the youth of the 
land who are trying out for self-expression. 

Radio cries out for new personalities, but its method of 
talent scouting through the avenues of amateur programs 
has besmirched its efforts. Radio's greatest service to the 


art impulse of America will be the promotion of neutalent 
irrespective of its origin or formal training. 

These radio art guilds should not ''rush in whereangels 
fear to tread" their course should be guided by slcv and 
judicious selection, and represent some sort of comromise 
in tastes. When the community begins to realize the ptency 
of radio in its cultural aspects the time will not b long 
before it calls into consultation those experts wh have 
given a life study to the art of self-expression. 

Our radio conferences, instead of being the voice c a few 
representative bodies, can embrace a larger sphere c local 
organizations which, in a cross-section, truly represets the 
national voice. It is the moral duty of those in th know 
to contribute those forces in the community sphere which 
will build up popular agitation for a right to air-tme or 
experimental programs that will do credit to the natin. 

The professional auditions of the Metropolitan's Audi- 
tions of the Air" program might well serve the raio art 
guild as a model in the discovery of new talent. The? audi- 
tions of the Metropolitan Opera House permit the public 
to enjoy the privilege of hearing trial tests formaV con- 
ducted in strictest privacy at the opera house. Its doctor, 
Edward Johnson, is a model em cee of the air, with sauve 
and subtle way of boosting the opera. 

In a private way, the concerts broadcast by the Curtis 
Institute of Music, the Eastman School and the Cirinnati 
Conservatory of Music represent distinct advances n the 
methods of radio audition. Their student orchestras cham- 
ber music groups, composers, vocal soloists and insmmen- 
talists have a dignified opportunity on the air. 

The rising "Musical Star" hour invites perfoners to 
compete for the weekly cash prize; the successful corestant 
also winning solo place on the current program, ts im- 
portant contribution to the formula of the amateur i radio 
is the jury of well-known musicians who officiate in stecting 


the winer of the substantial money reward, which goes to 
the a: st whom it considers best during the entire period. 

Leoard Leibling, the editor of Musical Courier, stresses 
the p blem of the newcomer in radio who is told to go out 
and gc a reputation and is left up against a stone wall. 

"\V ere shall we get it if you won't give us a chance?" 
was tc usual sensible question. 

"Tut's your affair, not ours," came the final crusher. 

It hoped that radio will change all that to a large 
exten Leonard Leibling holds out hope for the amateur. 
"Mic: phone hour is the chief discoverer of new talent and 
estab her of new name values. The reasons are simple a 
regul; opera debut is a rarity, owing to so few prominent 
lyrica organizations. Solo concerts offer an ominous expense 
for doutantes. Radio developed its particular public con- 
sistin of many millions of listeners. These changed condi- 
tions ove their own merit when it is remembered that a 
numbr of young performers first achieved popularity over 
the a before they became regular features of the concert, 
stage, nd opera houses. To mention those most prominent, 
there re Helen Jepson, and Nino Martini at the Metro- 
polit. and Deanna Durbin in the films." 

Radio's Cinderella. 

CB instituted a series in 1938 known as "Columbia's 
Chor Quest." This was a contest open to amateur choirs, 
chori s, and glee clubs whose members were not twenty- 
five y rs of age. The prizes offered were a cup and a concert 
tour ranged by the Columbia Concerts Bureau. Con- 
testai ; were judged by Deems Taylor, Davison Taylor, 
direc r of the music department of the CBS program divi- 
sion, vo members of the Columbia Concerts Corporation, 
and >r. John Finley Williamson, founder of the West- 
minstr Choir School of Princeton, New Jersey. 


The pronouncement of Davison Taylor is significant of 
a high aim in amateur encouragement. "This chorus quest," 
said Dr. Taylor, is intended to promote through radio the 
healthy interest in song which is evidenced throughout the 
country. It does not matter how large or small the com- 
munity from which the choruses originate, nor what type 
of music they may be interested in. What is most important 
is that rich talent is hidden in the amateur song-circles of 
the United States, and radio can help uncover and encour- 
age some of this. Besides the formal winning of a cup, and 
a concert tour, the winning group will enjoy the equally 
satisfying reward of a public hearing and popular approval, 
a vital and necessary stimulant for development. There is 
only one basis on which this may be earned and that is 



EVERYONE talks about education. Dr. Robert M. 
Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago, said 
only recently: "Except for the weather, education is the most 
popular topic in America, not excluding money, murder, 
baseball and sex." 

Innumerable conferences have been held to determine 
the role of radio in the scheme of national learning. The 
problem remains unsolved. The keenest minds have failed 
to answer how education shall be fashioned to compete with 
Charlie McCarthy and the "Singing Lady." Radio educa- 
tion is new. Classroom teaching is a vast business, involving 
expenditures of over two and a half billion dollars, and 
employing over one and a half million teachers, admin- 
istering to thirty million human beings, almost as many as 
listen to Charlie McCarthy on his Sunday hour. 

In proportion to the vast sums spent on commercial pro- 
grams, the investment in radio education is as millions to 
pennies. Let us engage the problem of radio education in 
answer to five questions: (i) What are the general aims of 
radio education? (2) How shall teachers be trained? (3) Can 
radio provide education for all different kinds of people? 
(4) What subjects shall be included in its curriculum? (5) 
Does radio education demand new pedagogical methods to 
be effective? 

i. What are the aims of radio education? The word 
"education" must be used guardedly on the air. It is the 
better part of discretion to refer to education as "popular 
talks," as do the British. Dr. James Rowland Angell, Presi- 
dent Emeritus of Yale and educational adviser to the NBC, 


advocated that air education be labeled as ' 'public service," 
to avoid frightening invisible listeners with some graybeard 
lecturer. Sir John Reid, formerly director of the BBC, 
stated the case of the British: "The British have a more 
definite plan and policy in educational broadcasting than 
has ever been set forth in America. The British hold it 
proper that school pupils should receive training over the 
air, which will enable them in later life to listen critically, 
to form judgments and build up the habits of mind that 
expect significant matter be it music, news, drama, from 

The announcement for school broadcasts for the year 
1937-38 included the following dictum: "The new medium 
has proved a tremendous enrichment in the lives of many, 
opening up new fields of knowledge and inquiry, developing 
new interests and mental attitudes. 

"The school wireless set brings to the classroom the riches 
of scientific and historical research, the masterpieces of lit- 
erature and music. Able commentators on economics and 
current affairs a varied assortment of interests and topics, 
which should set the child's mind roaming along many paths 
of knowledge. 

"It is an axiom of educational practice that the teacher 
should take advantage of the inherent curiosity of the child's 
mind. Broadcasts to schools using this same curiosity can add 
their peculiar contribution to the practice of the teacher." 

2. How shall the teacher be trained? How shall the teacher 
be trained to endow the microphone with pedagogical sure- 
ties? Whose is the master voice that can combine the virtues 
of Will Rogers, Socrates, and Benjamin Franklin? Such an 
individual, it has been suggested, would make an ideal 
director of the University of the Air. 

Many colleges today give only theoretical courses in 
broadcasting. The teacher is often hurried to the micro- 
phone with scant understanding of what it is all about. 


Provisions should be made for experiment; practice broad- 
casting should be as common as practice teaching. In asso- 
ciation with professional broadcasters, the teachers should 
study the interrelation of writing, production and delivery. 
They should combine writing with the study of the drama. 
Instead of a perfunctory approach to the subject the teacher 
should give intensive study to the art. 

Time will come when there will be specialized schools for 
the training of teachers for broadcasting. It is the problem 
of the universities to develop directors gifted in the origina- 
tion of program ideas. It is the special province of the 
educator to breathe life into the textbooks and to provide 
education over the air to many adults deprived of full edu- 
cational opportunities in their earlier years. 

"Broadcasting is an art," said John Erskine, "and the 
broadcaster is either an artist or a failure. Radio demands 
a special use of the voice, and a special conciseness of lan- 
guage. But otherwise, as an art it is governed by the same 
principles of aesthetics as all the other arts." 

Aldous Huxley boldly answers the problem: "Most of the 
professors broadcasting are professors of the old type. They 
have been educated in such a way that even when they 
broadcast they think in terms of the language and the 
methods accepted by the scholastic groups of which they are 
members. Quis custodiat custodes? Who will educate the 
educators? The answer is obvious. Nobody but the educators 
can educate themselves, broadcastingly speaking. It may 
seem like going around in a circle, but the professors will 
be obliged to look for themselves." 

The noted educator, Dr. Hutchins, maintains that despite 
the fact that the United States has the most extensive and 
elaborate system of education in the world its people, even 
those who take the highest degrees, are still uneducated. 
"They may have acquired a good deal of information, much 
of which is useless to them because changing conditions have 


rendered it archaic, but they have not learned to think, as 
their pitiful efforts to read, write and speak, make flagrantly 

Radio cannot hope to perform what the common schools 
have fulfilled. Acquisition of information by microphone 
lessons is often confused with knowledge. Massy information 
has very little to do with education, except for exercising 
the memory. Radio education at present is designed to 
present information. Its highest aim lies in cultivating the 
listener's thinking processes. Some say that is impossible of 
achievement without the presence of the teacher, the one 
teaching and the other learning. Learning does not occur 
easily or casually. It requires careful direction, and hard 
work. But when work is related to learning, the result is a 
motion toward something definite and of discipline. 

The modern conception of education emphasized the 
training of the thinking processes. Can it be said that radio 
will make listeners think? Can radio do what the printing 
press and the classroom have failed to do? 

3. Can Radio Provide Education for All Kinds of People? 
Real education, it has been determined, can never be a 
mass product. The very size and variety of the radio audi- 
ence which includes all ages and conditions offers a challenge 
to the educator. He is compelled to invent a new type of 
adult education, that will make scholarship fascinating to 
listeners in all sections of the country, especially in areas 
isolated from the big cities and centers of learning. Radio 
can only boldly attempt to supply the listener's need for 
information in his special field or in related fields. If the 
listener finds such a service useful, he will turn to successive 
broadcasts with delight. 

The highest aim of the educator is to stimulate and sus- 
tain the interest in the listener's love for a subject, which 
grows through the things that he does by himself under the 
power of suggestion the radio educator can wield. This 


power to instiil self-initiative in the listener is the most 
vital influence of the radio educator. The "radio professor" 
has a bigger job at the microphone than in his class room. 
With students directly under his eye he can lecture for half 
an hour or so and, whereas they may squirm inwardly, they 
have to sit and endure it. Not so out yonder in the air! The 
moment he becomes prosaic they say to themselves, "Rats 
to you, prexy," and turn to a dance tune. If he can't hold 
them he has failed, and failure of that sort is worse than no 
effort at all. 

4. What sort of curriculum shall radio offer? "Radio 
education covers a multitude of broadcasting activities, any- 
thing from a Metropolitan Opera House broadcast to a class- 
room lecture by a professor of geology. Although over forty 
per cent of the programs on the neftworks are labeled 
"education," most school men are dissatisfied and frustrated 
by the achievements of radio as an educational medium. 
Commercial broadcasters and educators are in complete 
agreement that radio can provide a vast amount of general 
information for the average citizen. Radio education can 
thus open up the mental vision of the world's activities, 
whet the curiosity, and stimulate the instinct for factual 
knowledge. In extending this realm of general information, 
the broadcaster is warned not to expect miracles. 

Not all subjects are adapted to radio teaching. The more 
accepted educational programs are music appreciation 
courses, drama, current events, history, geography, political 
education, literature and science. Geography lessons, espe- 
cially in the form of travel talks, rank high in satisfaction, 
probably because along with history they can be dramatized 
picturesquely; these subjects lend themselves to the show 
business. Events and places can be re-created and visualized 
when a traveler or explorer reveals his personal experiences. 
Such talks leave an imprint on the youthful mind far dif- 
ferent from a textbook. Youth's sense of hearing is sharp. 


School administrators, in summarizing, have rated the 
subjects which best lend themselves to broadcast teaching 
as follows: Music appreciation, geography and travel, Eng- 
lish and literature, health and hygiene, history, current 
events, civics, nature study and science, foreign languages. 
This line-up seems to be about the same in all countries, 
although each subject's place on the list may vary somewhat 
from country to country. Music is universally at the top of 
the list. 

The earliest form of education by radio seems to have 
been through the cultural impact upon the masses of truly 
good music. Grand opera, for instance, that had never before 
reached the common people except through phonograph 
records presently became available to radio listeners. To be 
sure, there was a transition period in which public reaction 
was tested. Among the pioneers in this field who are still 
occupying a responsible relation to radio is Franklin Dun- 
ham, now educational director of the National Broadcasting 

The Music Appreciation programs of Dr. Walter Dam- 
rosch come in that class of educational programs which are 
"naturals." Dr. Damrosch estimates that his audience for 
musical appreciation runs close to seven millions scattered 
from coast-to-coast. He, as the outstanding teacher and 
pioneer in this field, has received thousands and thousands 
of letters from the listening public and from school teachers 
to prove that radio carries education afar and reaches a 
vast assembly, which displays "an amazing musical intelli- 
gence, unswervingly classical." Many schools, especially in 
the less populous areas of the country, use these courses as 
a basis for teaching, and the classics have been made mean- 
ingful to the masses who have never before enjoyed the 
glory of Bach or Beethoven. Another earnest educational 
attempt is WABC's "School of the Air." History or geog- 


raphy woven into light variety entertainment and drama, 
painlessly conveys fact and information. 

Two important problems always face the educator. First, 
how can the audience be persuaded to listen? Second, how 
can that interest be retained so that listeners will not tune 

The school, rooted in tradition, develops and adapts 
teaching techniques slowly. Radio, if it is to teach at all, must 
first master the problem of attracting and holding an audi- 
ence. Educational programs have not had the advantage of 
the same experimenting as commercial programs. When 
educational programs are built up, rehearsed, and promoted 
for results, they may begin to rise in the popularity polls 
to the same heights as Jack Benny. 

Educational broadcasting therefore presents the lure of 
entertainment. The listener can be beguiled into becoming 
educated willy-nilly. The subject must in the first place have 
some bearing on the listener's own problems and experi- 
ences. This awakens a primary interest. At this point, the 
educator must keep up with the work and take advantage 
of the listener's curiosity and natural interest. If these in- 
terests are killed, the broadcast has done more harm than 

The process is a painless one. When Max Eastman initi- 
ated the "Word Quiz" program for CBS he frankly told his 
audience, "I must manage to make your brain have a good 
time. If you manage to learn something, please keep it a 
dark secret, and don't call me an educator." 

Radio education however must stand on tiptoes. The 
invisible pedagogue strives to inspire self-initiative in the 
listeners. And self-initiative is the basis of all learning. The 
creation of a National Education Radio Commission, ap- 
pointed by the President and supported by a federal tax 
on time devoted to advertising, was advocated by Dr. Jerome 
Davis of the Yale Divinity School. He expressed the belief 


that the British system is preferable to the United States' 
broadcasting setup. 

The educator needs encouragement, otherwise he stands 
on the outside lines, inept and uninspired. The educator 
has been accused of inefficient planning, preparation and 
delivery. But remember, he is expected to work for little 
or nothing in the school of the air. Hendrik Willem van 
Loon, for example, spends a day in the preparation of what 
he regards as an educational talk. For this effort he is paid 
twenty-five dollars a paltry sum compared with the stipend 
of a low-grade comedian. 

5. New Techniques The radio educator who feels the 
importance of his mission must not scorn the methods of 
the entertainer, nor consider himself divorced from all other 
departments of radio. Educators, ignorant of the techniques 
and the approach to broadcasting, fail dismally. Dr. Stude- 
baker, Commissioner of Education, frankly admits: "The 
history of educational broadcasting is strewn with the bones 
of dry lecturers because education went on the air without 
mastery of the art of teaching by radio. Equally ineffective 
have been the efforts of broadcasters who knew radio show- 
manship, but did not know what or how to teach." 

The three types of presentation fall into the dramatic, 
interview, and lecture methods. Dramatization is most effec- 
tive when listeners are not acquainted with the subject sup- 
plemented by sound effect and varied voices. The interview 
is most useful in presenting an authority who is skilled in 
radio speaking. It is taken for granted that the interviewer 
is equally facile. "The straight talk is most effective when 
the listener has been made interested," says Professor H. 
E. Ewbank, of the University of Wisconsin. 

Anyone can read off a lesson. But listeners are made only 
by enthusiastic teachers who have something to impart 
close to their own hearts and minds. Let the stigma that 
educators are "bum showmen be removed." 


When Hendrik Willem van Loon quit the radio early 
in 1938 with a chip on his shoulder, he culminated against 
following old ideas unadapted to such a new medium that 
calls for new technique and modern methods. Van Loon 
protests: "It seems to me that in applying radio to teaching 
we have been following school room and university tactics, 
as long as the horse is pulling the buggy and not the engine. 
The motor calls for an entirely different style of carriage. 
And so in radio I think we have reached the point where 
teaching methods in educational institutions should be re- 
modeled for an unseen audience instead of a visible. The 
programs or lessons must be designed first and foremost for 
radio, and in doing so they may be quite contrary to school 
room technique, where the teacher, the book and the black- 
board are all present." 

The Future of Radio Education 

What does the future hold for radio in education? Are 
educators following the will o' the wisp? Frank E. Hill, the 
author of ''Listen and Learn," looks ahead to 1947. In the 
first of a series of studies on adult education, sponsored by 
the Carnegie Corporation, Hill avers that most of the good 
educational broadcasters in schools and colleges are still in 
hiding. Education by air is more an art than a profession. 
Those gifted in that art should be discovered and put to 
work for the benefit of a tremendously large classroom. 

Many of the future radio educators, it is predicted, will 
come from the ranks of dramatists, writers and actors. A 
vast number of learners need both sound as well as sight 
to comprehend instruction. Radio does not offer a multiple 
appeal, which is the peculiar province of the teacher. Until 
television conies, radio education may be regarded as only 

Up to now radio broadcasting has been a novelty. The 


novelty is beginning to wear off. The new radio education 
will include fundamental instruction, as well as supple- 
mentary work, and visits to the homes of the listeners. School 
programs of the future will be broadcast over the short 
wave frequencies from a central point since commercial 
stations cannot surrender sufficient time to the schools. The 
teaching staff, instead of being reduced, will be augmented. 
Radio will demand a specialized group with agreeable voices. 
Until students have a way of talking back to the radio, 
no device can take the place of the teacher. 

The late Glenn Frank, former President of the University 
of Wisconsin, regarded radio education as in constant flux. 
"Radio has given education a new medium," he declared. 
"Education must invest radio with meaning." 

Success in educational broadcasting will depend upon the 
finest in quality and in content, presented by the best minds 
in such an entertaining manner, as will lead men and women 
to turn to the radio for cultural guidance and information. 
At the present time educational broadcasting in the 
United States is not established on a sound financial basis. 
In a number of instances, the radio station has furnished 
time, and educational agencies have built programs. Among 
the proposals that have come to the attention of financing 
educational broadcasting are: (i) federal state aid for local 
school funds; (2) listeners' license fees; (3) sales tax on radio 
sets; (4) sales tax on radio tubes; (5) broadcast license fees; 
(6) taxes on radio advertising; (7) taxes on electrical tran- 
scriptions and foundation grants. The public has some re- 
sponsibility also. Possibly the federal government should as- 
sume more responsibility than it has. 

The government is responsible for the creation of every 
station. That responsibility should include certain safe- 
guards for the public interest. Shall it abandon all safe- 
guards? Dr. Studebaker, Commissioner of Education, is the 
proponent of three important responsibilities which should 


be exercised by the government. The first of these is the 
responsibility to safeguard the radio frequencies to insure 
the maximum of public service. Nearly ninety-seven per cent 
of the frequencies within the regular broadcast band have 
been handed over to commercial companies. 

The second of these responsibilities of the federal govern- 
ment is to acquaint the public with the work of the govern- 
ment and thus contribute to national well-being. This will 
smack of propaganda, but Dr. Studebaker recommends 
forum discussions as a powerful force in the diffusion of in- 
formation. The third responsibility of the government is to 
educate the public concerning the services which should be 
expected of radio and to persuade and assist broadcasters to 
improve the use of the air in the public interest, conven- 
ience and necessity. This indeed is a noble ambition. If the 
public is made wise to the limited fare they are offered, the 
public howl may have some effect. 

Dr. James R. Angell, former President of Yale, now edu- 
cational Counsellor for the National Broadcasting Company, 
calls attention to the diversity of interests, which character- 
izes this nation of one hundred and thirty million. Because 
of this diversity he would shift the educational problem to 
local stations. "So far as I have been able to determine," 
said Dr. Angell, "a regular day by day service to the schools, 
of matters directly related to their normal curriculum, can 
be best supplied at local stations, whether commercially 
owned or owned by the State University." 

In 1937, Dr. Studebaker announced before the first na- 
tional radio education conference held in Washington, the 
six goals which it was hoped would be achieved within ten 
years. It is important to consider these principles to deter- 
mine whether the goals are mere matters of a ten year idea- 
ology or whether progress can be assured. 

i. Development of competent educational radio produc- 


ing groups in schools and colleges to broadcast on both local 
and educational stations. 

2. Further cooperation between educators and broad- 
casters through the Federal Educational Committee. 

3. Further experimentation and demonstration in radio 
in education by the Office of Education and expansion of 
the service to other agencies interested in the problem. 

4. Development of practical training facilities for edu- 
cators charged with creating radio programs as well as for 
those using them for instructional purposes. 

5. Establishment of short wave stations by local school 

6. More adequate support of existing educational radio 
stations with increased power and time to enable them to 
serve a larger clientele. 

In 1938 WEVD's University of the Air assembled a group 
of important educators to discuss the problems of radio in 
education. Among them were the versatile Hendrik Willem 
van Loon, Director of the New School for Social Research; 
Dr. Alvin Johnson, Dean of New York University; Dr. Ned 
H. Dearborn, executive director of the New York Adult 
Educational Council; Miss Winifred Fisher, and the Director 
of Ethical Culture Society, Dr. John Lovejoy Elliott. Here 
are the highlights of their radio conversations which suc- 
cinctly analyze the problem of education over the air. 

Hendrik van Loon: NBC and Columbia are hunting for 
educational programs. Do they have any ideas? They have 
come down to Professor Quiz. Anything more elevating they 
won't listen to. WEVD has had all the great scientists and 
teachers and has pioneered. 

Dr. Alvin Johnson: My first notion is that we don't have 
enough respect for American people to really deserve to put 
educators on the air. People show a lot of reluctance in lis- 
tening to us. So many educational programs are a lot of 


patronizing stuff that my children would turn off the radio 
the moment they heard it. 

Mr. van Loon: We give it away for nothing. That's the 
trouble. They don't care a damn. That's been true from the 
time of Jesus to Hitler. 

Dr. Johnson: We look around for some one who will pro- 
duce the stuff for nothing, make him feel that he has a 
wonderful privilege in talking to eighty million people over 
a hookup when the fact is, they haven't given him the condi- 
tions to do a thing worth the time of eight people, let alone 
eighty million. 

Dr. Ned H. Dearborn: We have not been able to get 
together on anything that is good for education in radio. 
Committees have been scrapping for a place in the sun. The 
industry has been arrogant. A leading executive in a recent 
speech said: "Any attack on the American system of broad- 
casting is a fundamental attack on democracy itself." 

Dr. Johnson: There is no objection to the system. I am a 
member of Columbia's committee on education, a fairly 
representative organization. We are given one half-hour and 
two fifteen-minute periods of evening time worth a million 
dollars. But what does anybody give for producing material 
for an educational program? Our education programs should 
be worked over to the same extent that a Fred Allen show is. 
Then we would have good educational programs. 

Miss Winifred Fisher: I don't listen to radio. I have been 
disappointed because of their assumption that you are so 
stupid and that education must be sugar-coated and diluted 
over the air. I would listen to radio if more substance and 
less pap were put into educational talks. 

Mr. van Loon: You can't tell that to radio stations who 
are afraid of advertisers. 

Miss Fisher: It's the fault of the people who don't write 
and complain to the stations. 

Dr. Dearborn: You can't expect men with lots of money 
to have a social-minded approach. 

Dr. John L. Elliott: We have a way of passing our interest 
to another country. There isn't anything our people can do 
for the people in Vienna. Why not begin with the problems 


at our door? Unemployment is the problem in this country. 
There are people who can discuss the question without 
propaganda. Get people who are working on the job of 
democracy in this country and in our city. 

Mr. van Loon: In other words, discuss economic prob- 
lems, social problems. 

Visitor: When you discuss relief you cannot do it from 
a non-partisan point of view. Discussions should take the 
form of debates. They are listened to. 

Dr. Johnson: More time must be spent on a fifteen-minute 
program than on an article in a magazine. You must make 
a living from it to do as good a job as Vallee does with his 
program. When radio takes education seriously it will give 
not only one million dollars of its time, but it will give 
enough money to people who will really work their heads 
off to get something done. Then what is put on the air can 
be a priceless piece of art. Something on which no amount 
of patience should be spared. 

The Correspondence School of the Air 

The Board of Education of New York City conducted 
courses on the air which were a distinct advance in method. 
The project was the teaching of English by remote control 
to Italian, Jewish and German residents, the city's dominant 
racial groups. The schedule calls for radio programs of fif- 
teen minutes each in which the teacher translates back and 
forth in English to the native language of the listener. The 
course is conducted along classroom lines with the students 
doing homework and sending it in for correction. Advice 
and criticism are given by six traveling tutors, who visit 
them in their own homes. 

Honors are even awarded to those pupils who regularly 
mail in their homework and show the best progress. There 
is even a summa cum laude for those showing outstanding 
improvement, which takes the form of an invitation to visit a 
radio station and participate in a broadcast. 



Women predominate among the registrants. A housewife, 
who must send her children to school, prepare dinner, mar- 
ket, and mend, has little time to attend the neighboring 
WPA schools for adults. As she stands in the kitchen, she 
may turn on the radio and listen to an instructor, who speaks 
her own tongue. She is thus taught the elements of a lan- 
guage she has really never had time to learn. The instruc- 
tion is based upon a textbook which, though based upon 
the fundamental principles for children, has been brought 
up to adult level. 

Education on the Air 

The ideal to be aimed at in propagandist efforts would 
seem to require a frank avowal of the purposes and interests 
represented when a broadcaster seeks to win support for his 
position; also an honest presentation of all the facts which 
the reader or listener has a right to know in order to form 
an intelligent judgment. So safeguarded, propaganda over 
the radio, as elsewhere, is a form of the normal effort of 
human beings to influence one another's attitudes. 

Many persons insist that no commercial program can pos- 
sibly be educational. Yet some commercial programs may 
be more truly educational in the sense of developing new 
interest and providing cultural enrichment than some of 
those provided by educational institutions. Advertising, in 
connection w r ith the broadcasting of a symphony concert or 
the Metropolitan Opera, is highly displeasing to many listen- 
ers, yet very few would deny that to make grand opera or 
symphony music available to listeners all over the country 
is to provide a genuine education in musical appreciation 
to many who otherwise could never hope to hear more than 
short excerpts from such works on phonograph records. 

Educational broadcasting, in the narrower sense of the 
term, includes stimulating interest, providing specific in- 


formation, and teaching new skills. Many educators feel that 
the first is the task for which radio is best adapted and that 
the emphasis should be placed there. Others point to the 
success of the land-grant colleges in broadcasting informa- 
tion to farmers about improved methods and to the popu- 
larity among housewives of home economics talks. Still 
others point to the teaching of arithmetic by radio in the 
Cleveland schools to the lessons in the playing of band and 
orchestral instruments broadcast for more than five years by 
Dr. Joseph E. Maddy, of the University of Michigan. 

Some educators believe that the lecturer who is popular in 
the classroom is equally interesting to the radio audience, 
and that the hour or two-hour lecture is not too long for the 
listener who "really wants education." Early in 1937 Har- 
vard University began to broadcast certain classroom lectures 
and other programs over WIXAL, a short-wave, noncom- 
mercial station. The experiment, the first attempt to broad- 
cast classroom lectures internationally, was so successful that 
it has been continued. 

The difficulty is not only the fact that a large proportion 
of listeners will tune out "heavy" lectures, but that they 
will fail to tune in again for later programs in which they 
would be interested. Thus, the station fears, it will lose its 
audience for commercial programs and on that its income 
depends. Yet this problem is not one for commercial broad- 
casters alone, for an audience is essential in any case. 

School Broadcasts 

In 1937-38 the American School of the Air was broadcast 
for thirty minutes every school day by ninety stations affili- 
ated with the Columbia System. During the same year the 
National Education Association, the Progressive Education 
Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, 
the National Council of Teachers of Geography, the Na~ 


tional Vocational Guidance Association, and Junior Pro- 
grams cooperated in the programs. Professor William C. 
Bagley, of Teachers College, Columbia University, is chair- 
man of the Board of Consultants. 

The Communications Commission has formulated engi- 
neering requirements which school systems preparing to in- 
stall stations must meet. A maximum of one thousand-watts 
power and a minimum of one hundred watts are required, 
although the latter may be modified for schools which can 
show that lower power is better adapted to their needs. 

Educational Stations 

From 1921 through 1936, two hundred and two broad- 
cast licenses were issued to one hundred and sixty-eight edu- 
cational institutions. In January, 1937, there were thirty- 
eight stations owned by educational institutions, and one 
short-wave educational station which is not owned by an in- 

More controversy has centered in the question of educa- 
tional stations than in almost any other aspect of broadcast- 
ing. When licenses were given to all applicants, many insti- 
tutions secured licenses. But many made little or no use of 
their stations. Gradually, many of these institutions either 
gave up their licenses or leased the stations to commercial 

In the fall of 1934 the Federal Communications Commis- 
sion held a series of hearings on the question of allocating 
definite frequencies to educational stations, in accordance 
with a provision of the Federal Communications Act. The 
commercial broadcasters brought forward an impressive 
amount of testimony to show that educators were not making 
use of the opportunities offered, while the National Com- 
mittee could not prove any great public interest in its 


All the educational stations which are operated on a non- 
commercial basis have very limited budgets. WHA in Wis- 
consin, which is described as "the largest of the educational 
stations in physical plant, one of the largest in transmission 
power, the richest in financial resources, and probably the 
most outstanding in the quality of its programs," had a 
budget of twenty-five thousand dollars for 1937-38. 


Co-operation Between Educators and Broadcasters 

After the Federal Communications Commission decided 
not to recommend the allocation of specific frequencies for 
educational stations, the Federal Radio Education Commit- 
tee was set up in 1935 by the Commission to "eliminate con- 
troversy and misunderstanding" and to "promote cooperative 
arrangements between educators and broadcasters on na- 
tional, regional, and local bases." John W. Studebaker, 
Commissioner of Education, is chairman. The committee 
includes prominent educators, religious and labor leaders, 
representatives of educational stations, and commercial 
broadcasters. With the appointment of this committee the 
importance of the problem was definitely recognized by the 
government. A series of studies which, it is estimated, will 
require two years for its completion at a total cost of two 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been approved. Edu- 
cational foundations have promised two-thirds of the neces- 
sary funds, and, it is expected, the remainder will be con- 
tributed by the broadcasters. Among the projects for study 
are "a survey of successful efforts by local stations to secure 
cooperation with civic and other nonprofit groups in their 
respective communities," a study of teacher-training courses 
in the use of school radio programs, the creation of a clear- 
ing house of information on educational broadcasting, a 
study of methods of publicizing radio programs, a survey of 
"organized listening groups here and abroad," the develop- 


ment of techniques for evaluating radio programs (this is be- 
ing carried on by Ohio State University on a grant from the 
General Education Board), a study of cooperation between 
local stations and local educational institutions, a survey of 
experience in network educational broadcasting, an analysis 
of public opinion in regard to educational broadcasting, and 
a study of radio listeners (this is being carried on by Prince- 
ton University on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation). 

One of the most interesting developments in the local field 
is that of the University Broadcasting Council in Chicago, 
a nonprofit corporation under the laws of Illinois. Three 
universities Chicago, DePaul, and Northwestern each ap- 
point two of its six trustees. Thus it functions essentially as 
the radio departments of the universities. It cooperates with 
five stations in the Chicago area, including the key stations 
of BBC, Columbia and Mutual. Nearly half its budget of 
fifty-six thousand five hundred dollars for the year 1938 was 
met by contributions from the universities and the stations 
and the remainder is furnished by the Rockefeller Fund. 

Perhaps the most impressive statement of the charges of 
the educators is made in Four Years of Network Broadcast- 
ing, issued by the Committee on Civic Education of the 
National Advisory Council on Radio in Education. As a re- 
sult of numerous changes in hours, the shift from one net- 
work to the other, cutting the time of the programs in half, 
failing to provide lists of the stations carrying the programs 
in time to send out publicity, and failure to keep the stations 
in line for the whole series of programs, the committee con- 
cluded by 1937 that "it is useless at this time to attempt sys- 
tematic education by national network broadcasting at hours 
when it will be available to large adult audiences." "Educa- 
tional broadcasting," the committee complains, "has become 
the poor relation of commercial broadcasting, and the pau- 
perization" of the former has "increased in direct proportion 
to the growing affluence" of the latter. 


It seems that both networks and stations may be becoming 
aware of the seriousness of the problem. In 1937 the NBC 
appointed Dr. James W. Angell, president-emeritus of Yale 
University, as its educational counsellor. In the same year 
WBEN of Buffalo appointed B. H. Darrow, well-known for 
his work in the Ohio School of the Air, as educational direc- 
tor. It may be noted that since 1933 the position of educa- 
tional director of the NBC has been a subordinate one. 
For the first time a network has a really prominent educator 
formally appointed as counsellor. Mr. Darrow is the first pne 
appointed by an independently owned commercial station 
"exclusively for educating." On January 10, 1939, the Co- 
lumbia System announced the appointment of an Adult 
Education Board of educators and publicists with Professor 
Lyman Bryson, of Teachers College, Columbia University, 
as chairman. The board is studying the scope and purpose 
of adult education over the air to meet the needs of a 
democracy, seeking to perfect techniques for this type of 
broadcasting. All educational series presented by the Sys- 
tem's department of education are arranged with the counsel 
of the board. Late in July, 1938, the NBC announced that 
an educational division would be established in the program 
department, in accordance with suggestions made by Doctor 

It is assumed that such local control enables the fullest 
adjustment to the peculiarities of a particular school system. 
The school officials and teachers are enabled to work out 
the programs most appropriate to the local needs. The plan 
allows for greater flexibility and freedom to adjust pro- 
grams to changes suddenly precipitated by any one of the 
unforeseen accidents which afflict a school system. 

This sounds as if the great change could do nothing di- 
rectly for the schools. Dr. Angell disavows this belief. "It 
does mean," he says, "that with forty-eight states and four 
district time zones to be served, each State having its own pe- 


culiar problems and prejudices, it is humanly all but im- 
possible for the great change to furnish a regular day by 
day routine service to meet the needs and the complete 
school curriculum. 

"They can from time to time offer brilliant supplements 
of the school program which a local station could almost 
never demand. And in certain fields, such as music, litera- 
ture, social science and health, they will probably for a long 
time to come be the only source to which the schools can 
look for the best." 

The networks loftily and frequently exploit the "great" 
educational "value" of radio as a new and far-reaching 
medium. An analysis of radio programs leads one to sus- 
picion that the overlords of radio do not mean what they 
say. There is precious little of what may be termed "educa- 
tion" in radio, but with tongue-in-cheek the networks have 
from time to time really been moved to do something 
about it. 

Visionaries see in radio the end of all blackboards, text 
books and even the teacher. Other observers know that radio 
can never supplant the discipline of the classroom and the 
guidance and inspiration of the teacher. The teacher was 
at first inclined to believe that radio was a labor-saving de- 
vice that would pre-empt her place in the classroom. All 
this is a fallacy. Eighteen years of educational broadcasting 
have proven that radio is merely a supplementary branch of 
the classroom, and not a revolutionary method in instruction. 

Only a few educational programs are outstanding. Educa- 
tional theory has been tested by listener demand, and the 
dry-as-dust formula has proved a flop. 

Sustained Programs 

Back in 1930, when the CBS American School of the Air 
started, juvenile education by radio was a novelty. Adult 


education by the same medium was virtually nonexistent. 
But the educational possibilities of the microphone were 
plain, and leading radio interests began experimenting with 
the idea until the tide started flowing. It has been brought 
to a crest in the CBS's Adult Education Series. 

This CBS series is noteworthy because: (i) It engages top- 
flight authorities in their fields; (2) it is divided into three 
departments of instruction, with weekly programs in each; 
(3) it is not a trial balloon but a permanent schedule. 

The first department, "Americans at Work," went on the 
air April 28; the second, "Living History," May 4; the third, 
"Adventures in Science," May 6. Other departments have 

"Americans at Work," is a close-up picture of industry; 
it catches workmen of all kinds sandhogs, steelworkers, lo- 
comotive engineers right at their jobs in their overalls. 
"Living History" dramatizes famous movements of the past 
and, where possible, draws an illuminating parallel with 
the present. "Adventures in Science" presents scientific views 
of important discoveries and theories in modern medicine, 
endocrinology, atomic research, and so on. 


By Prof. Henry Pratt Fairchild, Chairman, Sociology Department, New 
York University Graduate School, over Station WEVD, Tuesday, June 14, 
1938. The first in a series by members of the Advisory Board of the WEVD 
University of the Air. 

There is no doubt that the American people is pro- 
foundly education-minded. Our whole tradition, our whole 
national philosophy, induce us to lean heavily on education 
as a solution of all problems, an avenue to all happiness. 
Whenever any new invention or discovery is made available 
almost immediately some one begins to ask how it can be 
made useful in the field of education. 


It was to be expected, therefore, that as soon as the 
marvellous instrument of radio broadcasting had demon- 
strated its practicability the eyes of educators, publicists, 
moral leaders, and perhaps some less objective representa- 
tives of special interests should focus themselves upon it in 
the effort to discover its latent possibilities. It was natural, 
also, that the first line of thought should link it up with 
existing educational agencies. It was considered as a new 
implement to be added to the equipment of the public 
schools, colleges, and universities. The question was how 
the existing teaching staffs of these institutions could be 
mobilized effectively for this new attack on ignorance, and 
how the conventional techniques and processes of instruc- 
tion could be adapted to reach a new type of pupils. 

One of the early ideas was to achieve the maximum of 
economy by simply broadcasting regular courses from the 
class-room. I believe I was the first, at least one of the two 
first, teachers to be invited to participate in such an experi- 
ment. The administration of New York University was 
much interested, and facilitated the experiment in every 
way. I shall never forget the thrill of the first occasion, or 
the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw, 
in addition to the familiar group of student faces in front 
of me, that strange-looking little instrument set up on my 
desk, and realized that the responsibility was on me to de- 
liver a coherent and intelligible presentation of the subject 
to an unknown number of unseen auditors. Of course the 
students loved it the students there in the class-room, I 
mean. This was many years ago, and radio was very new. 
To see a little group of important looking men come into 
the room and set up an elaborate and impressive lot of 
equipment, and then to listen breathlessly for the first words 
of wisdom to go floating off into the ether gave them a 
tremendous kick. 

There were obviously technical difficulties on the me- 


chanical side. I could see that things were not always going 
smoothly. One night the transmission wire broke down and 
I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of eager 
learners were deprived of their evening dose of priceless 

There were also technical difficulties from the pedagogical 
side. The regular class period was an hour and three quar- 
ters, while the radio spot in those days was twenty minutes. 
The class met once a week. I was therefore under the obli- 
gation of keeping two independent but connected lecture 
series going. The first twenty minutes of each session had 
to be continuous and consistent for the sake of the radio 
audience, while the remaining hour and twenty-five minutes 
had also to be a consistent unit in itself without so much 
padding as to strain the conscience of a fairly seasoned 
instructor. It wasn't too easy. More than this, the subjection 
to the microphone seriously cramps the style of a teacher 
who is at the same time trying to deal fairly with a corporeal 
group of students. He wants to be free to move about, to 
sit down or stand up, to turn his back and put something 
on the blackboard. I very soon became convinced that the 
two types of instruction required quite different techniques, 
which would not be well mixed. Apparently the superior 
powers came to a similar conclusion, for the experiment was 
discontinued after a run of six or eight weeks. I never took 
the pains to inquire into the reasons, nor did I give much 
weight to the suggestion offered by one of my fan mail 
correspondents that my lectures contained a little too much 
sound radicalism to be acceptable in all quarters. 

But at any rate, this venture demonstrated that whatever 
the possibilities of radio education may be, it is hampered 
by certain limitations that do not affect ordinary class-room 
teaching. Radio instruction is, by its very nature, a one-way 
process, and it is an open question how much real education 
can be achieved when the flow of human relationships is all 


in one direction. Heaven knows that there is all too much 
of the one-way business in a great deal of our current 
college and university teaching. The size of classes, and other 
pedagogical considerations, compel the use of the so-called 
"lecture system" in a large proportion of the courses in many 
of our institutions. Many of my present listeners have un- 
doubtedly been subjected to this alleged educational pro- 
cedure, and I am sure that most of them will agree with 
me as to the validity of a definition offered by a certain 
undergraduate student. This young man said that "The 
lecture system, as developed in our American colleges and 
universities is a system whereby ideas pass from the lips 
of the instructors to the note-books of pupils without passing 
through the minds of either." Now you see, just to illustrate 
my point, I have no way of knowing whether that got a 
laugh or not. I have always thought that the reference to 
ideas in that definition was a trifle optimistic, but aside from 
that I think it comes very close to the truth. 

But even at its worst, the system of class-room lectures 
has many advantages over talking to an unseen audience. 
The teacher who has his class actually before him can tell 
to some extent, by the looks of his auditors, whether he is 
putting his points across or not. At least he can tell whether 
he is keeping his class awake. If he finds that he is not to 
a full hundred per cent he may be rather pointedly reminded 
that it is his own fault. I heard of one college professor who 
noticed that one of the men in the front row was slumbering 
soundly, and he called to the man in the adjacent seat and 
said, "Brown, wake up that man next to you." "Wake him up 
yourself," said Brown, "you put him to sleep." Of course 
there are some teachers whose soporific talents are so great 
is to affect even themselves. I was told the other day of a 
certain professor who dreamed that he was teaching a class 
and woke up and found he was. 

But if the teacher is really worth the name there is 


unquestionably an influence exerted by him upon his pupils, 
an intangible something that emanates from him and pro- 
duces an effect upon them that can not possibly be achieved 
by the heard voice alone, even though the speaker may be 
peculiarly gifted with that indefinable ability to put his 
personality across over the air. And even in courses that 
follow the lecture method, there is usually an opportunity 
for individual students to raise questions or interpose objec- 
tions in special cases. 

But I believe I am expressing the convictions of almost 
all true teachers when I say that the soundest education 
must always be a two-way process. This does not merely 
mean that the teacher must have a chance of testing the 
student's preparation, or finding out directly how much he 
has learned from his studies up to date. In many subjects, at 
least, it is much more than that. Genuine education is much 
more than the simple presentation and apprehension of 
facts, or even of truth. There is always a question of inter- 
pretation, of analysis, of emphasis, and these matters vary 
greatly according to the character of the personalities in- 
volved. One of the most scholarly men I ever knew, a 
person of true eminence, told me that in his teaching at 
one of our old New England universities, when dealing with 
controversial political and economic subjects he felt com- 
pelled to express views and opinions much more radical 
than he really held, because he knew that his students would 
discount whatever he said so heavily that in order to produce 
the correct impression on their minds the actual statement 
had to be exaggerated. It is a truism to say that real educa- 
tion is a growth process, and growth is always affected by 
the environmental conditions. In the class-room the intel- 
lectual environment is provided not only by the teacher, 
but the students themselves. Frequently more is learned by 
a given student from listening to the questions and com- 
ments of other students, and the interchange between them 


and the teacher, than from his own direct relations with 
the teacher. It is doubtful whether any satisfactory educa- 
tional substitute can ever be found for the small, face-to-face 
group of learners, including the nominal instructor, who 
participate jointly in the pursuit of that development ol 
personality which is the great aim of all education, and 
which can be no more standardized and depersonalized than 
can human beings themselves. 

All of the foregoing is true of education in general, re- 
gardless of the specific subject. Obviously difficulties increase 
in the case of these subjects, particularly various sciences, 
where laboratory experience and practice is virtually 
necessary. Clearly, ordinary laboratory instruction and ex- 
perimentation can not be conducted over the air. There is, 
indeed, a very interesting and important point as to how 
far conventional laboratory experience is really essential 
to the mastery of such subjects as chemistry, physics, and 
biology. A very significant series of educational researches 
could well be undertaken in this field. It would be an 
exciting task to discover to what extent a radio audience 
could be instructed and assisted to perform for themselves, 
with such equipment as the ordinary household could sup- 
ply, such experiments as are absolutely essential for the 
grasp of the elements of the physical sciences. 

For the present, however, almost by tacit assumption the 
field of radio education has been limited to subjects requir- 
ing no special laboratory experience. This tends to narrow 
it down to the humanities and the social sciences. Here is 
a broad enough field, to be sure, to occupy the attention 
of existing educational radio facilities for some time to 
come. And perhaps it is the field where radio education is 
most vitally important. For it is particularly in the field of 
the social sciences that the linkage of behavior to sound 
intellectual competence is most vital to the individual and 
society. Very few persons have to practice chemistry, or 


physics, or biology to more than a very limited extent, unless 
they choose them as a career. But everybody, particularly in 
a democracy, has to practice social relationships, and if he 
does not practice them intelligently and wisely he must 
perforce practice them stupidly and blindly. 

In my talk thus far I have laid particular stress on the 
difficulties and limitations of radio education. These can 
never be ignored. But it is equally important to recognize 
that radio instruction has many distinct and peculiar ad- 
vantages. These are so numerous that they can be hardly 
more than mentioned in the remaining minute or two. First 
of all, and most obvious, is the vast multiplication of the 
number of students made possible by the broadcast method. 
In a single evening a given teacher can reach many times 
more pupils than he could hope to influence in a lifetime 
of ordinary teaching. And if he has a significant message to 
deliver this is of vital importance. In the second place, radio 
education is far less responsive than study in any of the 
conventional institutions. It can be done in the pupil's 
home, no extra expenses for travel, residence, food, etc. It 
is a temptation to point out in addition that the expenses 
of instruction are further cut down by the fact that in many 
cases the teacher gets no pay for the instruction he does 
over the air but I won't go into that. In the third place, 
as radio education is developed, it will become more and 
more possible for the student to adjust his learning activities 
to the requirements of his regular job or occupation. There 
is already an effort to schedule educational programs at 
hours when workers of all types are most likely to be at 
leisure. Again, a radio educational agency is likely to be 
able to call on a more diversified, and possibly more com- 
petent, list of instructors than is ordinarily found in any 
single institution. There is also less subjection to formalized 
curricula, sequence of coures, departmentalization, etc. 

Whatever the balance of advantages and disadvantages 


may be, there can be no question that radio education has 
come to stay, and is destined for a development far beyond 
anything observable at present. Whether it is possible, or 
even desirable, to perfect in radio education devices for 
checking on the progress of the student through examina- 
tions, reports, and papers such as are used in standard 
education is a matter for study and reflection. But we can 
be thankful that radio has already blazed a trail into the 
wilderness of popular ignorance and lack of information, 
and that such institutions as the WEVD University of the 
Air are even now building up the sound foundation of 
popular intelligence and understanding on which all true 
democracy must forever rest. 


By Dr. William E. Bohn, Educational Director, Rand School, in the WEVD 
University of the Air series, Tuesday, June 21, 1938. 

There has been a lot of talk about giving education the 
privileges of the air. Not much has come of it. Not much 
will come of it until we boot out of our studio all conven- 
tional educators and conventional ideas. Intelligent people 
have been trying for a generation to cut loose from the old 
schoolmasterish methods. Here we have the chance of the 
ages. We are free from the schoolroom, the blackboard, the 
textbook, the outline, the examination the whole miserable 
paraphernalia which has kept us in a straight] acket. We have 
a new medium, the air. The whole world is at our command. 
We can get the teachers we want, use any method which we 
have wit enough to devise. And so far we have done just 
about nothing. 

Of course, there has been a good deal of learning around 
the receiving set. But there has been, too, much improve- 
ment of the human mind at Coney Island. All of life is 
educational. Horse-races, and prize-fights have probably 


pointed many a man the way to a better life. If you look at 
it broadly, every radio program probably teaches someone 
something. The endles swing music, the synthetic jokes, the 
obvious Hollywood exhibitionism all are education. Life 
itself is a great school. And the radio gives us life distilled 
through a microphone. 

But what we mean by education is something different. It 
is a specialized part of life designed to help us find the mean- 
ing of the whole. It usually consists of lessons, drills, activi- 
ties, lectures, books, examinations, marks. Schools, colleges, 
classes, libraries, correspondence courses are conducted to 
furnish it to mankind. Now comes the radio, last and most 
engaging daughter of the sciences. The schoolmaster catches 
glimpses of himself instructing the millions. Sometimes he 
has had the chance. But his pedagogical voice has been 
drowned by the click of countless receiving-sets being turned 

So the use of radio in education is a problem. Nobody 
really has an idea how to go about this business. Nobody 
cares much. The time is being satisfactorily taken up by 
Benny Goodman and Ed Wynn. But consciences are uneasy. 
We have an idea that something should be done. 

I am in luck about the main point. Dr. Henry Pratt Fair- 
child has given me my text. And Leonard Carlton, radio 
editor of the New York Post,, has challenged me to cut loose 
about it. All right. Here goes. Professor Fairchild was dis- 
cussing the students of the University of the Air: ''Whether 
it is possible, or even desirable to perfect devices for check- 
ing on the progress of the students through examination, re- 
ports, and papers ... is a matter for study and reflection." 

I don't need to reflect for two seconds about this busi- 
ness. Of course it's possible to perfect the devices of the 
class-room for use over the air. We can even tell little Willie 
to stand in the corner or give him permission to get a drink 
of water. But who wants to? In the name of John Dewey and 


Ichabod Crane, are our brains paralyzed? Here we have a 
chance to start something big and we just naturally putter 
round with thoughts of little class-room stuff. Radio's job 
is the education of cities, states, and nations of adults. The 
test of accomplishment will be no meticulous examination 
questions acrobatic performances which show nothing but 
the student's ability to jump through the pedagogical hoop. 
There will be the tests of life. If the University of the Air 
teaches citizenship to the people of New York, the test will 
be New York's government. Cities that pass will have good 
government and will be marked A not by the school- 
master but by history. If we teach health, the test will be 
the figures published by the Department of Health during 
subsequent years. And when we get this thing going listen, 
Mr. Carlton we'll give school boards and superintendents 
something to think about. If we have sense enough not to 
follow them, some of them may have enough sense to fol- 
low us. 

I would not advocate shooting all professional teachers. 
They have their uses. Let's be fair. What I am getting at is 
a very simple thing. Radio educators must make a fresh 
start, a start from scratch. If we carry the class-room with 
us to the studio, we are damned in advance. 

I know that the radio has been used successfully as a sub- 
stitute for the correspondence course or as an adjunct to 
it. Courses in Agriculture, in Foreign Languages, in Eco- 
nomics have been given over the air. That may be all right 
for a few specialized stations. But it must always be a 
limited thing. It is not what we are talking about. The big 
job of radio in education must be done by new people in 
a new way. 

There are three great fields which are open to the inno- 
vators and only one of these has been cultivated sufficiently 
so that we have more than an inkling of its possibilities. 
These three fields are: i. The Fine Arts; 2. Public Affairs; 


3. General Intelligence. A University of the Air should have 
these three departments. Its program for a given period 
should do justice to all three. But God forbid! the an- 
nouncers should never breathe a word to the customers 
about departments. Life isn't divided into departments. 
That is part of the old university machinery which we shall 
be well rid of. 

The one art which radio listeners have learned something 
about is music. There are fellows whose appreciation never 
rose above ''Sweet Adeline" who now ask for Mozart and 
Brahms and who know the numbers, recognize, distinguish, 
discriminate. The program directors never thought of musical 
programs as education. That is why they have done pretty 
well in this field. I am leaving out of account the really swell 
job done by Walter Damrosch and others in the field of 
musical pedagogy. The symphony concerts even with the 
current awkward and mispronounced comments have raised 
the cultural level of the entire country. Programs of songs 
have given infinite pleasure and have widened the musical 
taste of millions far from concert halls. The few operas com- 
posed for the air what great possibilities there are in this 

In the field of drama we are just making a start though 
the progress made during the past season is enough to show 
that there is practically no limit to future achievements. 
Here there must be much experimentation. Without the 
visible stage all the conditions become different. New plays 
must be written for this medium, and the stage-plays must 
be intelligently rewritten. We need a Shakespeare of the air. 
In the fields of poetry and story-telling we have hardly made 
a beginning. Yet radio seems just made for the cultivation 
of these arts. We used to mourn over the loss suffered by 
poetry and tale through enforced dependence on cold type. 
Well we can now have again the warm and flexible human 
voice as our medium. The poet can speak again as Homer 


spoke. It may mean a great revival. Freed from print, the 
human spirit may soar anew. 

The greatest of all fields for the University of the Air is 
Public Affairs. The arts of citizenship can be taught only 
tentatively and provisionally in school and college. What 
little is given in the realm of Civics, Politics, and Economics 
is so unreal that it hardly sticks. The radio teacher gets his 
student in the midst of affairs while he is making up his 
mind how to vote, how to make his living, how to solve his 
problems. His listener has the hottest possible motive for 
taking seriously anyone who has help to offer. And what the 
student receives can instantly be put to the touch of experi- 
ence. He can build it into his life as he goes along. Here we 
have the field lying wide open for the most realistic educa- 
tion in the world. 

And here, especially, we must cut loose from academic 
notions. If the President gives a fireside chat, or Governor 
Lehman addresses the citizens, or Louis Waldman discusses 
the state constitution that is education in the deepest sense. 
People are learning what they need to know from the best 
teachers from the men who are in the midst of affairs. The 
professional teacher is at best but a substitute for the 
real thing. Men and women of action bring the learner in 
direct contact with reality. Thus while the so-called edu- 
cational work of the broadcasting stations has been pretty 
bad a lot of good work has been done and has not been 
labeled education. Politicians, business executives, labor 
leaders, professional men have done a first class job. 

Then why not let well-enough alone? Because the field 
has been by no means covered. Program directors should 
ask themselves the question: "What do American citizens 
need to know? What do they need to know in order to vote? 
In order to find their way out of the depression? In order 
to educate their children? In order to select their profes- 
sions? In general radio can give them the necessary in- 


sights into the community life can give what college stu- 
dents should get out of Economics, Sociology, History, 
Politics. And the students will take it easily, vitally, from 
people to whom they listen gladly. 

This means that directors must have programs, ideas, 
schemes. They must be ingenious in rinding men and women 
who can put over the things which should be presented. If 
they depend on professional teachers to put over a uni- 
versity course, they will be defeated in advance. Suppose, 
for example, that we want to teach Economics. We will not 
outline a course beginning with Adam Smith. We will start 
with the depression. Perhaps we will be even more realistic. 
We will start with unemployment. We can get even closer 
to the ground than that. We can start with the listeners of 
one station who are unemployed. We will get the facts. Then 
we will get the best men from trade unions, from the U. S. 
Department of Labor, from the research bureaus. We will 
get a picture of the situation from them. Then will come 
human-interest writers to give their picture. The greatest 
authors will be glad to help. Then will come the social engi- 
neers to describe the working of our industrial system and to 
tell just what happens as a depression goes on. Then we will 
bring on the theorists and politicians, the New Deal men, 
the conservatives, the Socialists, any distinguished man or 
woman who has a right to be heard on the cause and cure 
of depressions. Then will come the experts on special phases, 
on child-labor, on unemployment insurance, on vocational 
training and guidance, on purchasing power, wages, mar- 
kets, profits. People will get the inside facts on this whole 
business of economic living. We will not have a speaker 
who is not an authority, not one to whom people will not 
listen gladly. The addresses need not follow a prescribed 
order. The sequence may be altered to follow the current of 
events, or to bring in a speaker who is in the headlines. In 


the course of one season students can learn Economics more 
vitally than most students ever learn it in college. 

Radio developments during the past season prove that 
people are hungering for what may be called general knowl- 
edge. All of these questionnaires, in the magazines, all of 
the question-and-answer periods on the radio, all of these 
fool games that people play at parties they prove some- 
thing. A lot of people can get tired of being ignorant. They 
want at least to have a little knowledge to show off with. 
They can't take courses in physics or chemistry. But here 
is this magic world. They are curious about radio, about 
cosmic rays, about strange lands, about climates, jungles, 
strange beasts. Consider how many tuned in on Admiral 
Byrd when he was in the Antarctic. This thirst for knowledge 
can be satisfied much better than the radio is even trying 
to do it now. Here the popularizers may well be called in 
to supplement the great scientists, inventors, explorers. In 
the course of a year a program can swing pretty well round 
the circle of the sciences. 

I am conscious of the fact that in some of these fields we 
are dealing with dynamite. The propagandist is always at 
hand to give his own twist to the facts. The program builder 
is in a position of public trust. If in a field like Economics, 
Medicine, or International Affairs there are vital differences 
of opinion, it is his business to hold the balance true, to see 
that the listeners get a true picture. In the course of weeks 
or months all important points of view must be presented. 
Educational radio cannot accept the limits which seem to be 
binding upon commercial radio. We shall not be trying to 
sell the listener something. We shall be trying to give his 
mind every chance to use the facts. 

But for the University of the Air the one unforgivable 
sin is dullness. It is wicked enough in all radio programs. 
The great complaint which the American people have a 
right to make against the current fare is that it is monoto- 


nous, unvaried, unimaginative, drab, unspiced, tasteless. 
It has a good deal of artificial snappiness, but not much real 
verve. It lacks especially humor. Men who are funny as 
Mark Twain or Bill Nye at a party become drab as village 
parsons the moment they face the microphone. To explain 
this curious fact in a nation that would sell its soul for 
smartness we would have to go too far back in the psychology 
of this business. All that I can say now is that the University 
of the Air must break away from the tradition of dullness. 
It must speak with a genuine and human voice, with the 
lively accents of real life. Reality must flow out over the 
waves sharply, quickly, vividly. The minute a speaker grows 
dull he must be shot. The crack of the revolver ringing out 
of the receiving sets will serve as a guarantee to customers 
that they can learn without being bored to death. Thus radio 
will make a supreme contribution to educational theory and 



FROM time to time critics have predicted that the ether 
clown would sound his own death knell on the air. No 
such obsequies have come to pass. Today entrenched before 
the microphone, the radio comedian sits securely on his 
sponsored throne. 

Test the comedian's power by his high-bracket income. 
Jack Benny, in 1937, signed a three year non-cancellable 
contract involving close to three million dollars. According 
to Walter Winchell, Bob Burns' income in 1935, before he 
won acclaim on the air, was exactly three thousand seven 
hundred dollars. By 1937, Burns' income was over four 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Eddie Cantor topped 
them all with sixteen thousand five hundred dollars per 

Let us cast a glance backward at the reason for the rise 
of the comedian. Radio comedy owes more to the late David 
Freedman than to any other writer. He was the alchemist of 
wit who popularized the method of compounding jokes 
drawn from huge files. He knew more jokes than any other 
man of his time and constantly refreshed his memory from 
a working stock of nearly seventy-five thousand. He became 
the first "write-hand" man of Eddie Cantor when the goggle- 
eyed comedian first went on the air in 1931. Until the time 
of his death in 1937, Freedman was the most prolific com- 
piler and writer of radio skits, regularly supplying the comic 
pabulum of Cantor, George Givot, Joe Cook, Helen Men- 
ken, Block and Sully, Jimmy Durante and scores of others. 

Freedman made the first attempt to give radio comedy 



form and structure. He was the first to prophesy that there 
would come about a famine in gags, the first to seek an ap- 
proach to humor in the events of the day. He died while in 
the midst of a lawsuit which asked for a verdict of two hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars for jokes, gags and dialogue 
which he had furnished Cantor for programs over a period 
of years. 

Freedman's skill in adapting sound and sense is instanced 
in this specimen of dialogue produced for Eddie Cantor, en- 
titled, "When you lose at Bridge and When you Win": 

Cantor: I'm going to give you my impression of a husband 
and wife coming home after losing at bridge. (Music Three 
O'Clock in the Morning.) 

Wife: You're gonna drive me out of my mind. 

Cantor: That's no drive that's a putt. 

Wife: You're so bright they named a town after you 

Cantor: You're such a good card player they named a 
game after you Rummy. (Crash of milk bottles.) Did you 
put those bottles in front of the door so I'd break my neck? 

Wife: No, but it's a good idea. You're sore because we 
lost at bridge. 

Cantor: I'm not. I'm sore because your mother came to 
spend a week-end and has been here for a year and a half. 
I'm sore because you gave me a veal chop that sprained 
my jaw. 

Wife: Why, whatever I cook I put my heart into. 

Cantor: No wonder it was tough as steel. (Baby cries.) 

Wife: Now you woke up the baby. 

Cantor: What's he always hollering about? 

Wife: He's teething. 

Cantor: Teething? What does he need teeth for at his age? 

Mother: What's that racket? 

Cantor: What's your mother hollering about she teeth- 
ing too? 

Wife: Mother's been nursing a grouch for two weeks. 

Cantor: I didn't know your father was sick. Listen, I'm 
hungry. What happened to that roast duck in the icebox? 


Wife: Mother ate it. She's so fond of duck she'd give half 
her life for one. 

Cantor: Oh Yeah? Tomorrow night, I'll bring two! 

Cantor: Now I'll show you what happens when the same 
couple wins at bridge. 

Cantor: Good old sweet home! Let me open the door for 
you, Toodles. 

(Happy laughter) 

Wife: Oh, did you hurt yourself, dearest? 

Cantor: No, Poopsy. Gee, it was awfully sweet of your 
Mother to come and mind the baby. 

Wife: Darling, you're so sweet when you win at bridge. 

Cantor: Why Snooksy, I'm the same whether I win or 
lose. I'm just happy because I'm married to the loveliest 
little wifey in the world. 

(Baby cries) 

Cantor: Oh, I woke up the baby. What a shame. How is 
the little angel? 

Wife: He's teething. 

Cantor: Poor little man! But won't we be proud of his 
first little toothy-woothy? 

Mother: Is that you, Tessie? 

Cantor: Your dear darling mother is up. Mother, Tessie 
played divinely. 

Wife: No, mother. It was Eddie who played like a master. 

Cantor: No, Lovey-ducky, it was you. When you played 
that Kingy-wingy on the Jack-wacky and won the tricky- 
wicky, we made a grand slammy-wammy and that won the 
gamey-wamey for us, sugar pie. Look, honey, I'm hungry. 
Is there anything to eat in the housey-wousey? What about 
that nice roast ducky-wucky? 

Wife: Mother ate it. 

Cantor: Oh, she ate it, huh? Didn't she leave me a teeny- 

Wife: You know how mother loves roast ducky. She'd 
give half her life for one. 

Cantor: Oh, Yeah? Then tomorrow night I'll STILL 
bring two ducky-wuckies. 


The writer of radio comedy is loath to admit his leaning 
on Joe Miller who, if not an "original" punster, at least sup- 
plied the spirit and the method of the wisecrack. 

Joe Miller, long dead, may never have cracked a pun in 
his life. When he passed away on August 16, 1738, he was 
but an obscure actor who played small roles such as the First 
Grave Digger in Hamlet. A "lamentable friend and former 
companion," as he describes himself, one Elijah Jenkins, 
Jr., saved Miller from oblivion. He made arrangements with 
a London publisher to print a seventy-two page book under 
the title "Joe Miller's Jests, or the Wit's Vade-Mecum." 
Being a collection of the most elegant bon mots and the most 
pleasant short stories in the English language, first carefully 
collected in the company and many of them transcribed from 
the mouth of the facetious gentleman whose name they 
bear. . . ." 

The volume, successively issued over the centuries, con- 
tains a typical classic quip of the man who saw people sneak- 
ing out of church and remarked, "The minister is giving 
us a moving discourse." And again, the smart protest which 
has a modern flavor, "He couldn't have died insolvent, be- 
cause he died in England." 

The New Comic Glossary 

The comic writer plays safe and respects tradition. He col- 
lects, revamps, reinterprets, readapts the seven basic jokes 
that have been allocated to mankind. He must make the old 
joke taste savory. He lards the joke with current reference, 
and then bakes it under the comic heat. When all the wrap- 
pings and trimmings are plucked away, the new joke is the 
old joke over again. 

The pilfering from ancient joke files has been prodigious. 
The quality of greatness in a radio comedian is to put his 
"steal" of approval on a joke and so disguise it that someone 


else will steal it. Bob Burns uses a lot of revamped Joe 
Miller jokes, and once told Dinty Doyle that he has been 
telling the same yarns for ten years and that he hopes to con- 
tinue for ten more. A joke that is so old that it is forgotten 
is automatically regarded as "new." Fortunately, we quickly 
forget. We come upon the same incident time and time again 
and barely recognize it. We forget what made us laugh and 
somehow look to the system of ideas that the comedian is 
using for the moment. 

A brief glossary must include the idiom devised by Dave 
Freedman: A "technocrat" is a great gag that cannot be 
fitted into a script; a "dragola" is an off-color joke; a "buf- 
faroo" is a powerful gag almost sure to evoke a belly laugh; 
a "weakie" is a feeble jest that goes in a script until a better 
one is found; "ti ti mi tita" is a sophisticated Park Avenue 
gag; a "hup cha de bup cha" is a sure-fire laugh; "dyna- 
mite" is material that can't miss. 

New additions to radio's joke vocabulary are constantly 
born. Certain jokes are called "cheaters." A "cheater" is a 
joke written into the script but omitted during rehearsal 
in front of the orchestra. By holding it back until the broad- 
cast, the musicians are surprised, laugh very heartily, and 
the comedian gets the support of fresh loud laughter close 
to the microphone. The "running gag" is a hangover from 
vaudeville and burlesque. The same joke recurs persistently 
in each of a series of comic sketches. From week to week 
the comedian refers to some physical characteristic or per- 
sonal trait of a member of the cast. Jack Benny kept wise- 
cracking weekly regarding the spats worn by Don Bestor, 
his orchestra leader, and Gracie Allen made continual quips 
about Jack Renard's "tummy." 

dnce A-Pun a Time 

From its inception, radio comedy consisted mainly of 
straight monologues or dialogues. A dozen or more puns 


and gags were the comedian's stock in trade. The comedian 
entered wholly into alliance with his joke books, and was 
equipped to start on his merry-go-round. 

The simplest form of humor is the pun, which is a play 
on words. The play on words is endless, and is common to all 
languages. The technique consists of directing attention to 
the sound of the words rather than to the sense of the word. 
Through similarity in sound, words are twisted out of their 
original meaning; one word is made to do the duty of two 
words. It all seems so easy and senseless, yet the world laughs 
at such things as this: 

Jimmy: Say, Eddie, did you ever make any money out of 
that chicken ranch of yours? Eddie: Oh, just a few poultry 

Or, such a notion as was heard on a Georgie Price Ama- 
teur Comedy Writers Program in 1937, the script about 
Louis and Farr: Question: "Did you ever box?" Answer: 
"Yes, I used to box oranges." 

The gag is generally based on exaggeration upwards or 
downwards. Things are enlarged to grotesque proportions 
or dwarfed until they seem ridiculous. We are offered a new 
and surprising pattern of life to which we are unaccustomed. 
Men do not put acetylene torches to help one light a ciga- 
rette, as does Groucho, nor do women powder their faces 
with marshmallow as Schnozzle Durante would have us 

The listener, who sees the true relation of things, is tricked 
into laughter by the attempt at hoodwinking his senses. If 
the gag achieves this triumph, it is a "good" gag, though it 
bears the mark of antiquity. In 1931 every radio comedian 
was following the "straight" routine. This consisted of line 
for line business. Jimmy Wallington would feed Cantor the 
"straight" line and Cantor would snap back with the punch 
line. A series of gags was hooked together without any par- 
ticular system or continuity, or, like Ed Wynn's early "opera 


programs," were nothing more than gag monologues. No 
matter what pattern comedy takes on, the despised gag still 
holds forth lustily. Fred Allen claims that in this decade the 
radio comic has risen from "gags to riches." However skil- 
fully disguised, always there must be the funny line. 

Mort Lewis, who wrote comedy scripts for Ed Wynn, Ben 
Bernie, Burns and Allen, maintains that the gag is not going 
out of style. "The gag," he says, "is still the backbone of 
nine-tenths of radio comedy. And that goes for Benny, Baker, 
Cantor, Wynn or Pic and Pat. Unless you're a mimic or a 
dialect slinger, it's the gag that pays off. As for the gag man 
becoming extinct because most comics are writing their own 
material today that's bunk. Most of the radio comics can't 
write. Even those who do, for the most part, require as- 
sistance. And they'll continue to require it, script writing 
being the high pressure racket that it is." 

The Comedy of Situation 

Comedy on the air was compelled to seek new techniques 
in order to escape annihilation. The formula of a string of 
he-and-she jokes had become decrepit. A new schemata was 
devised, a new framework which has been termed the com- 
edy of "situation." Every variety of episode offers grist for 
the comedian's mill. The theory is that the comedian could 
never run out of jokes if he clung to human situations, and 
topical events. The world keeps moving. The comic is 
squeezed out of any scene: A domestic squabble in the 
kitchen, a visit to the World's Fair, or to the circus, high 
jinks at the opera, at the race track, or wherever you are. 
The dialogue creates a definite picture of the locale and 
gives a swift impression of the situation involved. 

In vaudeville, the jokes were built up on front of a drop 
that helped establish the locale say Times Square, Main 
Street, or a woodland retreat. The radio comedy of "situa- 


tion" makes its locale quite as definite. A brief twenty 
words or so gives the listener the setting and the locale. The 
dialogue is brisk and involves heckling the comedian by 
all the performers. Every phase of the situation exposes a 
human failing open to smart interchange of the quip. Such 
a treatment of comedy demands an informal style. Here is 
where the skill of the writer must remove all traces of the 
mechanical unfolding of a joke. In the Burns and Allen 
episodes the effect is that of "nut" comedy, and repartee 
seems to flow from the situation without effort. 

Eddie Cantor started his radio career with a recital of 
funny stories. For a long time he remained the disciple of 
old gags coddled into being by a straight man or a dialect 
stooge. In January 1938, he began to pattern his program 
after the informal conversational style of Jack Benny. Occa- 
sionally he makes an abrupt switch back to his old habit of 
using straight men and stooges. It is the spirit of Eddie 
Cantor that pervades each of his programs and, though his 
material is quite the same, he surrounded himself with a 
whole set of familiar people Parkyakarkus, Jimmie Wal- 
lington, Bobbie Breen, the mad Russian, each of whom 
represented a distinct personality. 

Eddie Cantor's change in style is quite noticeable. He is 
leaning toward the Jack Benny style; shows three significant 
changes of method in getting across: i. He speaks a little 
more casually. 2. He does not utter his punch lines with the 
same yell as heretofore, and generally subdues the emphasis 
on climaxes. 3. He escapes from the routine of feed-line 

Jack Benny Radio's Funnyman No. i 

The most successful exponent of "informal" comedy is 
Benjamin Kubelsky, renamed Jack Benny, who was born in 
Waukegan, Illinois. His style deserves study. 

Aside from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Benny, forty-six year 


old Funny Man, is regarded as the biggest voice in radio. 
With a Crossley rating of 42.4, an estimated audience of 
eleven million families gives him ear every week. He is 
aided and abetted by his wife and former vaudeville partner, 
Mary Livingstone. He plays a timorous and boastful charac- 
ter to the delight of an audience that understands. 

Since 1934, he has held his place as America's Funnyman 
No. i, and ace salesman of the air outranked in popularity 
only by Charlie McCarthy. At a cost of twelve thousand 
dollars a week for personal salary, and at an additional ex- 
pense of fifteen thousand dollars for time and co-talent, his 
sponsors regard him as perfect investment in entertainment. 
For, with Benny at the comedian's helm for the past four 
years, the Good Ship Business rides straight to port, and 
brings home General Foods. 

Benny reached radio by way of the vaudeville stage on 
which he was not a great sensation. He did a monologue and 
kidded his audience with punch lines while toying with a 
big cigar and a fiddle which he did not play. Encouraged 
to apply for an audition, he got together a string of jokes 
and was impressed into radio by General Tires in 1932. 
Canada Dry and Chevrolet successively sponsored him until 
Jell-O claimed him in 1934. 

Harry Conn is responsible for many of the prevailing 
methods of informal comedy. He wrote nearly two hundred 
and fifty shows for Jack Benny and originated the notion 
of involving the whole cast in the act. He was the first to 
write travesties on literary classics. He can take credit for 
making it possible for Jack Benny's wife to become the 
comedienne. One of Conn's scripts called for an extra part, 
and Benny induced his wife to play the role under the name 
of Mary Livingstone. 

Like most writers of radio comedy, Conn's versatility did 
not last, and when he essayed a comedy role on the air 
himself, he proved to be a failure. Moral: Comedian, stick 
to your last! 


First Principles of "Informality" 

The following principles guide the writing and produc- 
tion of "informal" comedy: 

1. The aim is to take any experience or situation and de- 
velop it with the hearty exchange of little quips and puns. 
The listener is led on to successive ludicrous surprises, with- 
out any attempt to trouble the intellect. 

2. To unify the "situation," members of the cast are in- 
cluded in the "plot." Benny is verbally torn to shreds by his 
associates and is led into a debacle from which there is no 
escape except in the inevitable laugh. The pattern of the 
comedy is the "skit" or pure farce. 

3. The dialogue (a) sets the scene; (b) lends picture effects; 
(c) vivifies the situation; and (d) provides those descriptive 
touches which instantly provoke the imagination. 

4. Benny is the target for most of the jokes, and so his 
mild and ineffectual protests and explanations make him the 
object of sympathy. 

The formula calls for the use of "eye and ear" gags rather 
than what might be termed "ear" gags. "Ear" gags cause a 
laugh because of double meanings or some distortion in 
sound. The "ear and eye" gags involve a swift logic of situa- 
tions which enables the listener to picture the scene, give 
a fleeting glance backwards and enrich the whole concept 
of the relationship of the characters. 

The comedy of "situation" involves a slower unfolding of 
the joke without impeding the speed of the action. A certain 
groundwork must be established to ensure the "picture." 
Repetitions and timing are part of the success. Instead of 
striking the ear as a "plant," the joke flows intimately from 
the situation and appears to be a logical part of the pattern. 
The gags are never an end in themselves. If the listener sus- 
pects the gags have been forced to fit the situation, the de- 
vice would destroy the "natural" scheme of things. 


Commercials are placed in the script so that they seem an 
integral part of the comics. When Benny counters with Don 
Wilson, the announcer, the sales message becomes the pre- 
text for banter that elevates the laughing spirit with Jell-O 
and its six flavors. 

The Coming of the Stooge 

The history of the radio stooge is wrapped in controversy. 
There are many claimants for first honor of inducting the 
stooge on the air. 

S. J. Kaufman, in the Drama Mailbag of the New York 
Times, casts enlightenment on the development of the 
stooge. He turns to the days of early vaudeville when teams 
got their laughs when one of them twisted and tortured the 
English language. "The twister was the comedian," says 
Kaufman. "The other talked 'straight' and in the trade was 
called a 'straight man.' It was the duty of the straight man to 
feed the comic in such a way that the laughs were certain 
and definite. The straight man of old vaudeville days now 
has the radio name of 'stooge'." 

The "straight man" or "stooge" ordinarily would be the 
one who did not get the laughs. Today the comedian snares 
the laughs. The peculiar development of radio comedy often 
makes the comedian "straight" man for his stooge. Kaufman 
sets this test for deciding which one of the team is the comic: 
"The one who is abused is the comic." Thus, when Al Jol- 
son clowns with Parkyakarkus and acts as "straight" man for 
Martha Raye, his status as comedian varies with the nature 
of the treatment accorded him by his partners. 

Originally the stooge was planted in the audience for the 
special purpose of doing his best to heckle the performer on 
the stage. For many years Phil Baker's act in vaudeville in- 
cluded a stooge who sat in a box and constantly interrupted 
his efforts on the stage. Baker discovered that the audience 


sympathized with the heckler and gave the interrupter the 
greatest amount of applause. The heckler was soon intro- 
duced to radio in the person of a stooge whose malevolent 
voice broke in on the program with the command: "Get off 
the air!" at which Baker sprang to the defense: "Pay no at- 
tention to that scorpion!" 

Today, surrounded by satellites who have full freedom 
to heckle, the comedian makes humor out of human situa- 
tions. Fred Allen, in his early routine, packed Town Hall 
with a group of annoyers; Gracie Allen used as her foil the 
orchestra leader, Jacques Renard, and the announcer, Ted 
Husing; and Bob Hope provided a feminine stooge in the 
person of Honey Chile. 

The radio stooge is coming into his own. The old-fash- 
ioned stage comedian used to abuse his stooge by knocking 
him on the head with a bladder. The radio comedian has 
altered this tradition. Today the stooge has his comeback of 
free speech and the right of self-defense. He has risen in 
popularity because the listener finds in him a champion 
and a spokesman against grievances and abuses under which 
the listener ordinarily is compelled to remain silent. The 
stooge is thus the vicarious master of words that sting and 
provoke. He picks up the gauntlet and flings it at his tor- 
mentor. He becomes the supreme heckler who shows up the 
foibles of one who pretends to be his master. 

The radio comedian who knows showmanship no longer 
monopolizes all the smart lines by making his stooge a me- 
chanical feeder. It was Cantor's intention to develop Rubi- 
noff into a stooge, but the violinst was sensitive about his 
thick Russian dialect, and Wallington fell heir to the job 
in "straight" talk, Rubinoff remaining a silent stooge. Can- 
tor ascribes his own success to his willingness to become the 
recipient of his stooge's sting. He advises: "I could take his 
lines, but I don't want to. Why? Because when he heckles 
me, I'm the under-dog. If we reverse the situation, I'm on 


top, and the listeners resent me. They don't like the wise 

It is claimed that Groucho and Chico Marx were the first 
to use the stooge in radio comedy style. They stumbled on 
the broadcast formula in 1933. The practice of Groucho was 
to heckle Chico. As a result, the under-dog commanded the 
sympathy of hosts of listeners. Chico was getting ninety per 
cent of the fan mail and applause. 

The success of the single stooge soon provided the in- 
spiration for programs with multiple stooges. The stooge 
progeny has become prolific. Writers are called upon to 
create hecklers, and the obscure stooge was endowed with 
distinct character. The stooge is often given dialect to add 
to his stock-in-trade, and to identify his peculiarities. 

The very success of the comedian is due to the mock de- 
fiance of the persuasive stooges that surround him. "This 
business of being funny on the air has gone beyond the 
talents of any two performers," says George Burns. "The 
clown on the air today is like a baseball pitcher; he merely 
hurls and curves the ball across the plate. He needs plenty 
of team-play and support." 

Framing the Comedian 

The tendency today is to unify the comedian's efforts 
about some framework or central theme. This framework 
is a sort of main trunk with spreading branches to which the 
gags may be attached. Phil Baker edits a newspaper; Jack 
Oakie assumes the presidency of Oakie College; Stoopnagle 
and Budd become "inventors" who conceived such fantastic 
devices as wigs with hair that stands on end for bald men 
reading mystery stories. 

The comic writer is at his wits' end for some theme which 
will bear serial repetition and at the same time be entirely 
refreshed at each performance. Once the background is es- 


tablished, the routine is more easily understood and more 
eagerly followed by the listeners. Sometimes the "situation" 
seems forced, as was Eddie Cantor's effort to squeeze humor 
out of an interview with an engaged couple each week. The 
bride-and-groom-to-be were presented with a check of one 
hundred dollars for their appearance. They deserved it. 

The framework of the comedian changes from time to 
time. Fred Allen uses a variety of basic situations: (i) "Town 
Hall News, Sees Nothing, Tells All"; (2) Interviews with 
The Man You Did Not Expect to Meet, a comic appraisal of 
the work of extraordinary personalities unearthed by Uncle 
Jim Hawkins, assistant to Allen; (3) the Portland spot; (4) 
Fantastic burlesque sketches by the Mighty Allen Art 

During 1937, Ed Wynn introduced the style not only of 
introducing guest stars, but making them allies in his com- 
edy scheme. The comedy develops from the absurdity of 
Wynn playing opposite a noted Ophelia, or attempting a 
duet with a musical artist, either vocally or instrumentally. 
It is almost an insult to true artistry, to make a great artist 
become the foil of Wynn's wit, but dignity descends to 
comedy. And a singer permits herself to be interrupted in 
the middle of an aria while Ed soars into the comic ether 
with lisping ecstasy. The scheme might be termed a species 
of subdued burlesque, which would defeat its purpose in 
inexpert hands. 

The standard radio style is to alternate band and comedy. 
Some critics claim both elements do not really belong to- 
gether. "The comedian," says Alton Cook, "tries his best to 
get an audience into a high spirited whoopee mood. Then 
comes the band leader who wants to play a ballad and change 
the whole spirit of the program. If he succeeds, the comedian 
has difficulty in getting audience attention for his second 

To establish and hold the proper mood, the band should 


play atmospheric music. Some comedians attempt a liaison 
between the comic and the music by giving cues to the 
band leader. "Play Don!" says Jack Benny to Don Bestor, 
and the band plays on. 

The Radio Family 

To create the feeling of ease, smoothness, and naturalness, 
it became necessary to create an entire radio "family" whose 
dissensions made them stand out as familiar characters with 
the radio audience. 

As distinguished from the variety show, the unit comedy 
program devised by Conn generally follows this routine: (i) 
The comedian exchanged insults with the announcer; (2) the 
various stooges, including the orchestra leader, insult the 
comedian; (3) topical material treated in a comic light; 
(4) a sketch with high-pressure comedy effects. 

Relatives indeed come in mighty handy on the air. They 
have furnished many comedians with the major portion of 
their programs. Each week brings a peep into the private 
lives and intimacies of real or mythical kinsmen. Listeners 
react as if they knew each member personally. Bob Burns 
built almost his entire routine around his Arkansas kin. 
Burns' uncle furnishes him with his best wisecracks: "My 
uncle is so tough, he filled an enemy so full of lead that when 
he sat down he made marks like a lead pencil." As to his 
aunt: "Aunt Peachey has no more meat on her than a vege- 
tarian's vest." 

Eddie Cantor, of course, always mentions Ida and his 
daughters. Most listeners would recognize Gracie Allen's 
"brother" if they met him on the street, and Ed Wynn would 
be at a loss without his "uncle." It is our sympathy with 
these characters that is the secret of humor. Their trials and 
habits become as familiar to us as if they were constantly 
at our side. 


The radio form of the pseudo feud between musicians 
and comedians was first introduced by Eddie Cantor's razz- 
ing of RubinofL Another phase of the feud exists between 
fellow comedians on rival programs, as when Fred Allen 
challenged Jack Benny to play a virtuoso selection on the 

Feuds come and go. Some are real, however. Kate Smith 
didn't like the way Eddie Cantor teased her about her avoir- 
dupois when he was on the Chase and Sanborn Hour. Kate 
resented his continuous harping on this theme as question- 
able taste. Nearly all the feuds are based upon similar cause. 
An open rupture begins when rival stars steal from each 
other some professional trick or style or program method 
such as a peculiar voice or dialect. 

The Feud Reaches Its Climax 

(The Jack Benny Show moved to New York. Fred Allen 
was already broadcasting from that city. The following Sun- 
day night, during the Benny broadcast, there is a loud 

Mary: Come in. 

All: Why, it's Fred Allen. 

Benny: Well, as I live and regret there are no locks on 
studio doors, if it isn't Boo Allen. Now listen, Allen, what's 
the idea of breaking in here in the middle of my singing? 

Allen: Singing? Well, I didn't mind when you scraped 
that bow over my suitcase and called it "The Bee," but when 
you set that croup to music and call it singing . . . Benny, 
you've gone too far. 

Benny: Now, look here, Allen, I don't care what you say 
about my violin-playing on your own program, but when 
you come up here, be careful. After all, I've got listeners. 

Allen: Keep your family out of this. 

Benny: Well, my family likes my singing and my violin- 
playing too. 

Allen: Your violin-playing! Why, I just heard that a horse 


committed suicide when he found your violin bow was made 
from his tail. 

Benny: Hm. Well, listen to me, you Wednesday night 
hawk, another crack like that and Town Hall will be look- 
ing for a new janitor. How did you get in here without a 

Allen: I made one at the doorman and you're next. 

Benny: Oh I am, eh? 

Allen: Listen, cowboy, why didn't you stay out in Holly- 
wood where you didn't belong? 

Benny: Because I heard you were coming out there to 
make a picture, that's why. 

Allen: Well, I saw your last picture, and maybe you didn't 
start bank night, but you certainly kept it going. 

Benny: Oh yeah? Well, three states are waiting for your 
picture to be released. They're going to use it instead of 
capital punishment. Wow! Where are you going to live in 
Hollywood, Mr. Allen? At the ostrich farm? 

Allen: I may. 

Livingstone: (Starts to laugh loudly.) 

Benny: What are you laughing at, Mary? 

Livingstone: He'll show those birds how to lay eggs. 

Benny: Mary, that was marvelous. I'm going to kiss you 
for that. 

Livingstone: Then I take it back. 

Benny: Oh, you do! 

Allen: She'd rather kiss an ostrich and so would I. 

Benny: Well, Allen, that's going a little too far. When you 
make that kind of remark it means fight where I came from. 

Allen: You mean your blood would boil if you had any? 

Benny: Yes, and I've got just enough to resent that. If 
you'll step out into the hallway I'm ready to settle this affair, 
man to man. 

Allen: All right, I'll knock you flatter than the part of this 
program I wasn't on. 

Livingstone: Hold on there, Allen, who touches a hair 
on Jack's gray head has to find it first. 

Benny: Never mind that. Come on, Allen, let us away. 
(Muttering) Hm, I'm sorry now I sold my rowing machine. 
(The two stamp out. There is long, suspense-filled silence. 


Then we hear heavy footsteps approaching, the door opens 
and Jack and Fred enter laughing.) 

Benny: Ha, Ha, Ha. Gosh, Freddie, those were the days, 
weren't they? 

Allen: Yes, sir! Remember that time in Toledo when you 
walked in the magician's dressing-room and stole his pigeons? 

Benny: Do I? They tasted pretty good, didn't they, 

Allen: You said it, Jack. 

Benny: We didn't make much money in those days, 
Freddie, but we did get a lot of laughs. 

Allen: We certainly did until we walked on the stage. 
(They both laugh again.) 

Livingstone: Jack, what happened to the fight? 

Benny: What fight? Say, Freddie, remember that time in 
South Bend, Indiana? 

Phil Harris: No kidding, fellows, what happened to that 

Benny: Why, Phil, we were never serious about that. 

Livingstone: Then how'd you get that black eye? 

Benny: Oh, this? Well, I was just writing a letter. 

Allen: And I dotted his eye. 

Benny: Now wait a minute, Freddie. I slapped you more 
than you did me. Look at your wrists. They're all red. 

Allen: Well, I made you say "Uncle" when I pulled your 

Benny: Uncle isn't the word, but let it go. 

Livingstone: Well, I'll be darned! After what you guys 
said about each other. 

Allen: Listen, Jack's the whitest guy I know. 

Don Wilson: But you said he was anemic. 

Allen: Listen! Don't let anyone tell you Jackie Benny's 
anemic. He stays white on purpose just so everybody else 
will look healthy. Don't you, Jackie boy? 

Benny: I sure do, Freddie. 

Phil Harris: But you said he had so little hair he sprinkled 
popcorn on his shoulders for false dandruff. You even said 
he was stingy. 

Allen: Jack Benny stingy? Why, his heart is so big you can 
put a stethoscope on him any place and get action. 


Don Wilson: Say, Fred, here's a package you dropped on 
your way out to the hall. 

Allen: Oh yes, that's a box of candy I was going to give 

Livingstone: Candy! Can I have a piece? 

Allen: Sure, but take the square ones, Mary, they're not 

Benny: Hm, I see. By the way, Freddie, when you get 
home if that box of flowers I sent you is still ticking, just 
put it in water. 

Allen: I will. Thanks for the tip. 

Livingstone: Gee, this candy is swell. What's it filled with, 

Allen: Ipana. 

Benny: Oh well, she was going to brush her teeth anyway. 

Allen: For that I'm going to brush mine with Jell-O. 

Benny: Why don't you have them put Ipana out in six 
delicious flavors? 

Allen: That's a great idea, but I have to go now. 

Benny: O.K., Freddie, thanks for your kind visit and 

Allen: What apology? 

Benny: Never mind, let's not start that again. 

Allen: By the way, Mr. Harris. 

Phil Harris: Yes, Fred? 

Allen: You lay off my pal, Jack Benny. That's all. Good- 
bye everybody. 

Benny: So long, Freddie. (Fred goes.) Play, Harris. And 
watch your step. You heard what Freddie said! 

Phil Harris: Why, you sawed off little punk! I'll take you 
and tear you limb from limb. 

Benny: Oh, Freddie Freddie Freddie Freddie! 

Fitfully, the feud continues. Wednesdays and Sundays 
give each comedian an opportunity to fan the flames higher. 
For most listeners, though, the night Fred Allen walked into 
the Benny show remains just about their best broadcast. 


Touching the Heart Strings 

Some of the best comedy on the air strikes the more seri- 
ous note. Many comedians endeavor to touch the heart 
strings and make a tear flow along with the laugh. This fol- 
lows the dictum of Aristotle, that it is the business of com- 
edy to lay bare the vices in all its shapes, so that cowardice, 
vanity, thieving, gluttony, conceit and the like may be 

The sympathies that the comedian creates are sometimes 
indefinable. The appeal is built up by a character, a per- 
sonality who, for better or for worse, and many times for 
worse, all the world loves. The most popular of all comic 
radio characters is the sap, the under-dog. In the movies he 
is epitomized by Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. On the 
air the crowning male example is Ed Wynn, the perfect 
fool; the female version, Gracie in Blunderland. 

It is the aim of the comedian to create characters that are 
at once odd and lovable. This explains the willful imbecility 
of the late Joe Penner, the lying propensity of Jack Pearl, 
the comic cantoring of Eddie Cantor. Their queer responses 
to life, we may thoroughly disapprove, but always contempt 
is balanced by affection. In the end we surrender to the 
laugh, grateful for their entertainment, even though they 
leave us with a sense of frustration. 

Sentimentality plays a large part in a comedian's offering. 
Radio insisted that Al Jolson stick to his sentimentality. For 
this reason, his rise in radio was slow. Eddie Cantor offers 
no apology for indulging in a forced pathos and a rudi- 
mentary philosophy. With a woman's intuition, Nina Wilcox 
Putnam, the novelist, says in his support: 

"I think that Eddie is miles ahead of any other star on 
the humorous air. You see, his jokes are not only funny, but 
they are sensible. Behind all his humor is a genuine philos- 


ophy. You not only laugh at what he says, but under your 
breath you instinctively comment, 'By gosh, that's truel' ' 

An overwrought sentimentality is dangerous to the average 
comedian. Such themes as mother love, heroism, self-sacri- 
fice, sympathy for animals and the down-trodden, when in- 
troduced to comedy must be handled without overdoing the 
maudlin. Cantor espouses a hundred causes, camps for kids, 
scholarships and the like. Occasionally he employs an effec- 
tive slogan, such as a plea for careful driving: "Drive slowly. 
We love our children." 

In many teams the male monopolized the snapper line 
and the joke exploded around the woman. Many listeners 
resent the humiliation of the woman at the hands of a man, 
even in comedy. Burns, as the partner-husband, may be out- 
raged by Gracie's inanities, but he is always tolerant and 
patient. He is the pattern of the smooth lad who holds the 
admiration of the audience of women. Because of this ability 
to create universal types, George Burns and Gracie Allen 
enjoy the unique distinction of having the act translated 
into French every week. The scripts are broadcast there by 
a French couple. "Grace et Georges" get three hundred 
dollars a week in royalty for that. 

Burns employs a battery of from three to four writers 
who, while engaged on any one program, never see each 
other. The next task is to select the choicest morsels from 
each product. The gags are assembled and Burns makes sure 
that every line of repartee, no matter how familiar, is in 
complete harmony with Gracie's character. She never says 
a word that is unbecoming to the world's greatest nitwit. She 
is not consciously the witty lady handing out smart lines, 
or thumbing her nose at men, but shines as a lovable 

It is important in comedy to create a type. Bob Hope uses 
as a stooge a dumb girl, always Honey Chile on the radio. 


Women find her amusing because she makes them feel so 
much smarter by comparison. 

What Gracie Allen says is peculiarly absurd and we know 
that she is going to say something absurd. We never really 
admire her traits and, in fact, may actually resent them. 
But our opposition is broken down by the rush of the de- 
lightfully ridiculous, and we find ourselves laughing willy- 
nilly. Paul Douglas, the announcer, once said boastingly over 
the air: "George and Gracie have taken pains to prove that 
some people can live without brains." Such is the essence 
of a great art, and it is no wonder that Gracie has been 
voted by the students of the University of California the 
most intelligent actress in America. 

Much of the laughter which mankind has enjoyed is the 
joke pointed at women and marriage. Gracie Allen's House- 
wives' League had as it principal plank: "All men are born 
free and equal, but wives are changing that." 

Her silly blurbs often carry the sharpest sting. "Oh!" she 
cries out, "I always say if a man wants to break himself of 
the habit of forging checks, he should make sure when he 
gets up in the morning to fill his fountain pen with water." 

Shall It Be the Comic Monologue? 

Apart from those who essay dramatic character mono- 
logues, as does Miss Cornelia Otis Skinner, the comedian 
who stands before the microphone alone has a difficult time 
of it on the air. There is scarcely anyone except Will Rogers 
who has achieved distinction working alone. It is too much 
of a virtuoso stunt to do a thirty-minute program alone 
Frank Fay's solo attempt in the role of a worldly gentleman 
proved to be a struggle to amuse, in spite of his singing 
offered as relief to his leisurely comments. 

The shining examplar of the monologue today is Bob 
Burns who was aired into national prominence, aided by his 


bazooka. Not only did he achieve personal fame, but he 
helped put his home town prominently on the map. The 
official stationery of the city of his nativity states simply: 
"Tom English, Mayor of Bob Burns' Home Town, Van 
Buren, Arkansas." In a manner that suggested Will Rogers, 
Bob Burns clung to his native idiom, weaving his yarns 
about his folk in Arkansas. He is the essence of colloquial- 
ism his easy-going dry and resonant drawl captures the ear 
because the manner in unforced. In the following situation 
he confides to Bing Crosby and to listeners everywhere: 

"You know, Bing, all my kinfolks down there in Van 
Buren ain't like me. I talk a whole lot I know that, but 
most of my folks are very quiet and peaceful. I know one 
time I was comin' home from a trip and standin' in the 
woods, quite a way from the house, I saw my uncle standin' 
out there and I says, 'What are ya doin'?' 

And he says: "Nothin'." 

And I says: "Are ya huntin'?" 

And he says: "No." 

And I says: "It's gittin' dark it's time to git in the 

And he says: "Yes." 

/ says: "Come on and go in with me." 

And he says: "No." 

And so I says: "Well, dinner'll be ready pretty soon ain't 
ya hungry?" 

And he said: "Yes." 

"And so I started on towards the house and went about half 
a mile and I went back and I says: "Come on and go home 
with me!" 

And he says: "No." 

And I says: "Why?" 

And he said: "I can't," he says. "I'm standin' in a bear 

The radio monologuist remains in peculiar need of a 
studio audience. Bob Hope, in an interview in the New York 


Sun, claims that without a studio audience the monologuist 
is helpless to react to mood or to gauge studio laughs. "My 
solo bits are patterned exactly after my stage style," he says. 
"True to vaudeville formula, I attempt to make my topics 
breezy and seasonal." 

The fault of the monologuist generally lies in his ma- 
terial. Writing a program of jokes that are sure-fire and un- 
familiar is a rarity. The second danger lies in a false vocal 
approach. The voice betokens too great an effort at being 
whimsical and the comedian's chuckles betray him as too 
obviously self-gratified. Even well-dressed jokes can not save 

The Phenomenon of Charlie McCarthy 

Charlie McCarthy was born into radio on December 17, 
1930. On that date Rudy Vallee introduced Edgar Bergen, 
sitting before the microphone with his dummy on his knee. 
This was an experiment and an amusing novelty, pre- 
sumed to be good only for a few radio programs. Ventrilo- 
quism before this time was a program feature classified with 
jugglers and acrobats and confined to the theater, Chau- 
tauqua platform and vaudeville. 

Within the space of three months the ventriloquist's 
dummy was ironically proclaimed by Sinclair Lewis, in a 
lecture before the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Sciences, 
as the head of our "national heroes." Northwestern Uni- 
versity recently conferred upon him the degree of "Master 
of Innuendo and the Snappy Comeback." Edgar Bergen 
was similarly honored by Dean Dennis. 

What explains the phenomenon of Charlie McCarthy? 
Here is a wooden creature, jockied on the knee of his master, 
and yet never quite under control. The fellow winks under 
his monocle, opens his hinged mouth and utters more im- 
pertinences than any other actor would dare throw off his 
chest. No one would suspect him of an evil thought, yet his 


utterances have a devilish tinge. He says what he thinks 
and emerges triumphantly from situations which the average 
listener would not know how to combat. He can take a 
whack at the foibles of men and women, puncture their 
pomposities, jeer at their false pride, and set humanity in 
its proper place. It is because Charlie is beholden to no man 
that he becomes the lovable hero. When Adolph Menjou 
is extolled as the most perfectly dressed man in the world, 
Charlie says with a quirk: "His pants are pressed so what?" 

Psychologists might explain the vogue of Charlie by prov- 
ing how, through mass stimuli, the multitudes come to love 
symbols rather than reason and reality. Myth and fact be- 
come merged into symbols. Charlie McCarthy typifies the 
braggart; his throaty, haunting chuckle voices the mockery 
of a spiritual soul that is all fed up with the frailties of 
human nature. He is a blustering blockhead with an extraor- 
dinary brain under his wooden skull. His brassiness is a 
compound of wisdom and lampoon. His unusual and un- 
expected candor awakens the listener's surprise and admira- 
tion. It is the militancy of Charlie McCarthy which made 
Ned Sparks turn on him furiously, calling him "a slippery 
elm lothario, a hickory version of Pollyanna and a wood 

The distinguished psychologist, Dr. A. A. Brill, who sub- 
jected Charlie to careful analysis, finds a Freudian complex 
in the reaction of mass listeners. Says Dr. Brill, "Behind it 
all is Mr. Bergen, the ventriloquist, the gifted wag who 
uses Charlie as a facade to express contempt, aggression, 
and sexual allusion in a witty way. The radio audiences, 
who are there because they are sadly in need of such outlets, 
are put back by Charlie McCarthy into that early state of 
childhood when they, too, were permitted to think and talk 
as they pleased, regardless of inhibitions exerted by parents 
and society." 

The appeal of Charlie is universal. His wisecracks have 


been food for optimists and pessimists. He is regarded as the 
enfant terrible whose naive chatter betrays the closest family 
secrets. Some wag said, "Charlie McCarthy has been getting 
laughs since he was knee-high." In spite of the fact that the 
radio audience knows that Charlie is only a dummy, speak- 
ing with the voice of the ventriloquist, listeners react as if 
Charlie were a human entity. Hearing is believing. 

The illusion is created through ventriloquism. From time 
immemorial the ventriloquist has excited admiration. The 
ancient Chinese had talking dummies which spoke only at 
the insistence of priests. The priests held the dummies 
against their stomachs and the dummies would answer ques- 
tions in the voice of ventriloquism. The trick of ventrilo- 
quism is not easy. Normal speech is changed by compressing 
the glottis so that sounds seem to emerge from the lips of 
the dummy. The successful ventriloquist must make his 
dummy's voice quite differentiated from his own. Bergen 
manages a varied range for Charlie. An editorial in the New 
York Times thus describes the emotional touches that Ber- 
gen puts in the voice of his dummy: 

"Basically it is arid. Although Charlie is apparently still 
in his teens, his little voice is aweary of the world. It has the 
infernal fatigued assurance of a lad who has been too much 
in the company of his elders; it is suave, condescending and 
impertinently familiar. Charlie has a bland tone for throw- 
ing an adversary off the track. When he feels that he is 
stumbling into an awkward situation his voice can make a 
disarming plea for sympathy; it drops away into a choking 
tone of self-pity, impossible to believe or to resist. When 
he is in a wooing mood beyond his years, his voice fairly 
coos with insincere rapture." 

Much of the success of Edgar Bergen is due to his ability 
to write a great part of the script himself. No comedian has 
ever been able to stay in the top ranks of radio for more 
than a season or two without the aid of a script writer. 


Bergen employs a writing staff, but he uses shrewd judgment 
in revising the work submitted. 

Here is a typical quip inserted by Edgar Bergen: 
"My father was a big stick out in Michigan," boasts 
Charlie. " 'Whitey Pine,' they call him." To which Bergen 
counters: "From the timbre of your voice, people would 
know you came from the woods." 

Charlie's creator says: "Many ventriloquists have made 
the mistake of making the dummy first and then trying to 
fit the voice to it. Their acts flop because the words that are 
put in their mouths do no seem to fit them." The image of 
Charlie seems to flash on the retina of the listener the mo- 
ment he opens his mouth. Listeners have already been made 
familiar with his insolent face on the screen and they have 
caught sight of him in the drug store window. Over the air 
that impertinent face must bespeak itself in a manner re- 
flected in his features. 

Kidding the Sponsor 

In the search for new comedy forms, someone discovered 
that the commercial plug could be made a subject of hilarity. 
This new device, known as "kidding the sponsor," was not 
without its merit. Most sponsors regarded their dignity 
at stake if comedians twisted jokes to fit their products. 

Ben Bernie is said to have started this vogue of comic 
camouflaging. Sometime in 1924, he persuaded his sponsors, 
the Pabst Brewers, to permit him to indulge in a mild play 
of words: "The old Alma Malta, preferred by the malti- 
tudes. Blue Ribbon Malta is the mosta of the besta." 

The language of the comic soon became more embold- 
ened. In 1931, Ray Perkins began to employ understate- 
ment to create the laugh and the sale for Jergen's lotion. 
"It is of no use whatsoever in improving poker hands." 
"It will not remove wrinkles from the inside straight." "You 


gentlemen who have trouble with your golf remember that 
Jergen's makes it easier to get out of the rough." 

Eddie Cantor was given leeway with Pebecco. He tells of 
his loyal cow: "I've taught her to brush her teeth twice a 
day, and now she gives dental cream." 

Even Pepsodent permitted this by-play: Amos: "Did yo' 
really love Susie?" Andy: "Well, prepsodent and prepsodid." 

The kidding formula received fullest development at the 
hands of Jack Benny. Benny discovered that he could fore- 
stall the irritation of the audience by getting in a rage with 
the announcer: "I can go ahead now. How Wilson made 
that fit in, I don't know." 

Ed Wynn's notorious heckling of Graham McNamee on 
his first Texaco program was an advance on the conventional 
plug. "Always, Texaco, I'll stick to my horse, Graham. Per- 
sonally I hate automobiles. If my horse runs over a nail in 
the road, I don't have to stop and pump up its leg." And 
then another protest. "Don't talk to me about gas, Graham. 
If a doctor ever operated on you for appendicitis, he'd find 
himself opening a gas station." 

The art of "kidding" the sponsor requires a masterful 
use of voice to soften the comic thrust. This involves subtle 
nuance instantly recognized as spoofing. Today the form of 
"kidding" has gone beyond mere gags. The product is also 
subject to humorous treatment in doggerel verse, smart dia- 
logue covering a unique situation, and in comic song. 

Radio's Only Sophisticated Comic Fred Allen 

A natural evolution of the gag toward a more coherent 
form leans toward burlesque. Here the art consists of treat- 
ing a serious subject ridiculously or in making a trifling 
affair appear quite solemn. 

Fred Allen is perhaps the best exponent of this method. 
He is the philosopher-comic and satisfies the best definition 


of humor by "thinking in fun and feeling in earnest." Bar- 
ing the taboos of broadcasting, Allen spares nothing in the 
contemporary scene. The method of making travesty of 
events of the day is as old as civilization. There was a time 
when Egypt built jokes about the building of the Pyramids 
and Aristophanes of Athens held Corinth up to ridicule. 

Fred Allen's comedy springs from burlesque of things he 
reads about in the newspapers. Men and women, he claims, 
are too busy with their own problems to dig up their laughs 
as they skim through the papers. "That's my job," says 

"To begin with," he once told Louis Reid, "I read nine 
papers a day. I look for items that'll lend themselves to 
kidding. I clip such items as I want. By the end of the week 
I may have fifty items collected. I go through them and 
figure out what I can't use because of the broadcaster's 'No.' 
I am not allowed to poke fun at the Townsend Plan and a 
lot of other censorship things. By the time I've sifted through 
the batch of fifty, I'm lucky if I have four I can josh!" 

He continues, "Oh, yes. I have a joke book collection. I 
own some four thousand joke books, but I haven't used a 
joke book for years. It's too much trouble to worry about 
whether the gags were used recently by another comedian, 
so I forget about them. I just go along and get jokes and 
situations that I think original." 

Perhaps the method is best illustrated by an example he 
himself gives in Radio Guide: 

"I ran across an item to the effect that the Hartford, Con- 
necticut, Motor Vehicle Department had started a novel 
safety campaign. 

"Cops stop motorists and, instead of arresting them, dis- 
cuss the safety campaign. It's a push-over for me. I open my 
scene with an officer yelling the usual Tull over to the curb.' 
Instead of bawling the driver out, he's as nice as pie com- 
pliments him on 'Nice pulling over, brother,' exchanges 


reminiscences of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and ends up 
offering to race the motorist to Stamford. That is as sure- 
fire as comedy can be. It has universality. Everybody knows 
cops are tough. Everybody has been bawled out for speed- 
ing. There's a sure-fire laugh in the idea of the cop racing 
the motorist. Yet, the whole thing came right out of the 
New York Times. All I did was put a twist on it to make it 

It all appears so easy. Fred Allen had already written 
vaudeville sketches for about a dozen years before he entered 
radio. A former vaudeville juggler, he was practically un- 
known to most of his listeners when he made his radio debut 

in 1Q33- 

Allen is, first of all, the analyst. He reverses the method 
of creating the situation first and then fitting jokes to the 
situation. "Some of the boys who write comedy material get 
four or five gags and then try to think up a situation that 
they'll fit into. That's what I call the hard way. I gave it 
up long ago." And so, without benefit of joke books, Fred 
Allen looks on the contemporary scene and exposes the 
foibles of mankind and turns the laugh of mankind on itself. 

Allen, who once billed himself as "The World's Worst 
Juggler," might be termed "Radio's Only Sophisticated 
Comic." He makes men laugh more heartily in order to 
make them live more happily. His genius lies in topsy-turvy 
thinking. He satisfies the test of universality in a comic 
ability to provoke the laugh of the intelligentsia and the 
hoi polloi. 

Will Rogers, Master Satirist 

No one has appeared to take the place of Will Rogers, 
master satirist and disrupter of the political foibles of the 
nation. He was unique in that he employed the art of satire 
unmercifully and uncensored. Satire is entirely a weapon of 
defense and originally was used in personal quarrels. 


Will Rogers unassumingly took the role of the defender 
of a Public against those who, in some way, stood for anti- 
social policies. Instead of using political harangue and vitup- 
eration against offenders like Andrew Mellon, he let loose 
shafts of satire. He aimed at the very heart of the shams 
and rascality of the day, while we laughed with him. 

That arch satirist himself, Gilbert K. Chesterton, held that 
to preserve the comic spirit "one must have a certain respect 
for his enemies." Rogers was a master of this reserve. He 
did not assume that those whom he attacked were despicable 
characters. He knew that an unqualified attempt to degrade 
does not result in laughter. 

It was Will Rogers who succeeded in establishing what 
Theodore Dreiser calls a "democracy of the funny bone." 
The novelist would have us believe that this part of the 
American anatomy is constantly exposed, always at elbows 
waiting to be tickled or rapped. 

"Where else in the world," says Dreiser, "can one get on 
equal terms immediately and almost magically with whom- 
soever else simply by appealing to that underlying suscepti- 
bility to laughter? The wisecrack is our national form of 
introduction. It does not mean that all inequalities are 
abolished or that you are going to be friends for life, but 
that in all forms of social difference are seen to be the ulti- 
mate uncertainties that they really are." 

Consider this Rogers' gem: "Americans are not worrying 
about the League of Nations. What they want is somewhere 
to park their cars." Or, the way he twitched the politicians' 
noses: "Well, folks, as I was saying, I ain't never been elected 
much 'cept Mayor of Beverly Hills. Politicians amuse more 
people than they interest. And uh I guess this is not an 
election of parties or policies. It's an election where both 
sides need the work. I think if you would split the salaries 
between every two candidates runnin', they would call off 
the election." 


And this broadcast appraisal of the English and Americans 
on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the King and Queen 
on May 6, 1935: "We both have manners and customs that 
drive each other pretty near crazy, and an American with a 
mouthful of chewing gum can get on your nerves almost as 
much as an Englishman, with only one eye full of monocle 
can get on ours. But, after all, neither commodity contrib- 
uted to the success the nations have made. 

"We will never have trouble with each other, England, 
you or us. We both have humor. If we started to fight, we 
would have to stop in the middle and start laughing at each 
other. I don't know you are naturally funny to us and we 
are like a mickey mouse cartoon to you." 

The first radio talks of Will Rogers were not too success- 
ful. All his life he had been accustomed to swinging his 
rope, wandering about the stage, and carrying on a running 
chatter. He was able to gauge his place according to the 
response of the audience while he chewed gum and in- 
dulged his peculiar mannerisms. His early manner showed 
that he did not quite realize whether he was talking to a 
few invited studio guests or to the "great unseen" audience. 
Soon he became fully possessed before the mike and "learned 
to stay put." His peculiar monologue idiom fell refreshingly 
on ears accustomed to the twaddle of comedian and stooge. 

What he had to say he said in his "patois" He sounded 
the true cowboy from Claremore, Indian Territory. Com- 
plaints poured in from college professors who protested 
that if Rogers was going to comment on the affairs of the 
country, he ought to speak good English." He took liberties 
with the rules of syntax, and was ready to justify himself. 
"Syntax! What's that? Sounds like bad news." When he found 
out it meant grammar, he laughed and replied: "Didn't 
know they were buying grammar now. I'm just so dumb I 
had a notion it was thoughts and ideas." 

The secret of Will Rogers' appeal lay in his easy intimacy 


with his audience. To achieve this personal and direct ap- 
proach, one must appear wholly extemporaneous. On rare 
occasions Rogers read from a script. He employed no ghost 
writer, no gag specialist. He considered the questions of the 
day and made a trademark of the confession, "All I know 
is what I read in the papers." His method was to fill himself 
full of a subject let us say Russia. A week before his broad- 
cast he would be constantly talking talking Russia to his 
friends or in private rehearsal with himself, always ready to 
apply a satiric touch. 

He would think out a line or a joke and then spring it in 
the right place as if it just came from the forehead of the 
Jove of Satire. When the time came to broadcast, Rogers 
had already built up by conversation those sharp-edged and 
taunting sayings which he delivered with spontaneity. 

His spirit was kind yet stern. He mixed humor with a 
pungent philosophy. He belonged to the crowd because he 
spoke their language and could interpret the popular mood. 
By the irony of fate, Rogers met tragic death by crashing 
to earth in Wiley Post's plane. And there was lost to radio 
the man whom Homer Croy called "Radio's Best One-Man 

How to Become a Radio Humor Writer 

Radio is determined to keep us amused. The writer of 
radio comedy has the world before him, and begins with the 
thesis that everything can be made laughable, ludicrous, 

Language has specialized use for the humor writer. Gram- 
mar need not deter him. He has but to indulge in funny 
images and use words to create ludicrous pictures in the 
mind. He can employ his fancy in puns and phrases, in 
strange twists of meaning, of affinity of sound, in smart 
questions and sly quips, in clever repartee, tart irony, laugh- 
ter-provoking hyperbole, intelligent nonsense, distorted 


speech, and the representation of persons, things, and events 
in their contradictions to fact and truth. 

For the writer in training we shall set down here only a 
few guiding principles and methods in illustration. 

1. Above all, exercise an original turn of mind. Contrive 
to turn things topsy turvy, see people reflected in concave 
and convex mirrors, and garner the laugh from the most 
sober aspect of things. Look under the surface of things 
and be ready to uncover hypocrisies and shams of everyday 
life. All this sounds easy. But as a second thought, you must 
reduce the laugh to the simplest terms. It is the average 
listener who must be amused, so your comic stuff must not 
only be palatable, but swallowed entirely. 

2. Get a collection of gags, fresh ones if possible. This 
may take many years of grinding effort and a perusal of 
thousands of jokes from anthologies and magazines. Be 
warned that so prolific has become the flood of bad radio 
comedy that nowadays when a youngster begins to save old 
humor magaznies, one suspects he plans on opening a dental 
office or becoming a comic. 

3. Provide yourself with the published anthologies of 
jokes. Good sized collections are Five Thousand World's 
Best Jokes, edited by L. Copeland, (Blue Ribbon), The 
World's Best Humorous Anecdotes, (Harpers), and The 
Cream of the Jesters, (Boni). Your study of the history of 
humor can cover an enormous bibliography, but Constance 
Rourke's invaluable American Humor and Eastman's En- 
joyment of Laughter belong first on your reading list. Your 
mind may be a storehouse of ancient gags, but the trick is to 
bedeck them anew. Beware the charge of plagiarism. 

Groucho and Chico Marx were convicted in a Los An- 
geles Federal Court of plagiarizing a copyright skit entitled 
"The Hollywood Adventures of Mr. Dibble and Mr. 
Dabble," written by Garrett and Carroll Graham. On ap- 
peal to the Circuit Court, Judge William Handy upheld the 


decision on the ground that the Marx Brothers had read 
the script before they broadcast it in September 1936, and 
so could not have forgotten about it. 

4. Try to turn an epigram at ease. You may not reach the 
skill of Augustine Birrell whose "barrelling" included such 
a classic as: "The House of Lords is a group representing 
nobody but themselves and enjoying the full confidence of 
their constituents." 

5. Study historic witticisms for salty phrase. Make ap- 
plicable such a one, quoted by John Gunther in Inside Eu- 
rope: "Once Poincare remarked to a group of friends, 'I 
smell war/ Leon Blum said simply, 'Let him disinfect 

6. Try your hand at pungent, witty, pithy and lively say- 
ings. Fred Allen dusted off a quip from "Jumbo": "An 
elephant never forgets, but what has he got to remember?" 
Analyze this witticism. He is a self-made man and proud of 
his creator. Or the one which Edward Everett Horton let 
loose on a program: "A bachelor is a fellow who never 
makes the same mistake once." 

Walter Winchell calls those who create the informal com- 
edy stuff for Benny and the rest "insult writers." To qualify 
for this title, you must let humor flow from the taunts your 
characters hurl at each other. Radio comedy does not en- 
visage the old custard pie throwing days, or squirting grape- 
fruit into a lady's face in the manner of Cagney, but it per- 
mits a merciless exchange of savage and insane patter. 

7. Give attention to the derided pun, so that you can 
qualify as a "pun-gent" writer. It may be low-type humor, 
but the radio audience thrives on puns. Mort Lewis, with 
some apology for being its author, quotes a pun he created 
for a Maxwell House Program: January: (Restaurant cus- 
tomer): Does you make good coffee? Molasses: Good coffee! 
Boy, I make swell (Maxwell) coffee. 

8. You should welcome the genesis of new words in the 


manner of Walter Winchell. Slang may be the epitome of 
humor. He strikes out with this one from his "Things I 
Didn't Know 'Till Now" Department: "Disraeli wore cor- 
sets. Of course, it's true." 

"The battle of depression has been won," says one speaker. 
"Good!" replies Fred Allen. "Now the employers can cease 

9. Exaggeration has its values. When W. C. Fields moans 
that "wine flowed like glue," we catch an immediate pic- 
ture. And so, too, we know the predicament of Bob Hope 
who complained: "My fan mail has been so heavy these past 
few weeks, I've had to get another cigar box." 

10. Try your hand at comedy playlets. This form requires 
the highest degree of compression. Fred Allen follows cer- 
tain definite principles in creating the action for the Mighty 
Allen Art Players. "What I do in these playlets," he says, "is 
to present a boiled-down version of what might have been a 
real play, and then make it funny. It takes plotting, but in 
the end you have two points of interest, the story and the 

Women writers seem to have neglected the field of radio 
comedy. There is nothing to prevent them from providing 
the comic with the nourishing gags. Mabel Anderson is one 
of the few women writers to venture into radio comedy. 
She ascribes the lack of comic creativeness on the part of 
women to an emotionality that is less stable than that of 
men. Submit this jest of Miss Anderson's to the laugh test: 

M.C.: Hello, Mabel, what's that big book you're carrying? 
Mabel: Oh, this? It's a book of my family pictures. 
M.C.: Family pictures? They call them family albums. 
Mabel: That's my family all right. All bums! 
And another of Miss Anderson's: 
Baker: I thought your father was rich. 
Mabel: Say, my father has so many gold teeth in his 
mouth he has to sleep with his head in a safe! 


11. Collaborate, if you can find a comedy partner. 
Writers of comedy generally work in collaboration with the 
comedian. Jack Benny uses the conference-collaboration 
method. Mary Livingstone and his writers gather around 
him, and together they decide on a "situation" that has 
humorous possibilities. If Christmas or Mother's Day is not 
far off, they may decide on a theme to fit the holiday. This 
is what is called making the program "timely." Now comes 
the test of the writers' imaginations. The situation must be 
milked for its laughs. 

The writer may delve into his file for appropriate jokes, 
but without an inventive turn of mind he may turn out the 
average pattern of drivel. Turn loose your ingenuity in 
adapting jokes to new situations. For new and brilliant 
flashes of wit, trust to your fancy which is the highest form 
of imagination. The "idea" behind your sketch serves as 
the main stem from which floriate your gags, witticisms, 
puns and comedy thrusts. How easy to adapt this one of 
Byron Spaun to a restaurant episode: "I was in a restaurant 
yesterday, one of those with a sign 'Not Responsible for 
Articles Stolen,' " said Byron, thumbing his suspenders. "I 
watched my hat, and someone stole my soup." 

It is such casual talk that made the comedy script of the 
"The Circle." Every Tuesday Madeline Carroll, Groucho 
Marx, Lawrence Tibbett, Basil Rathbone and Robert Dolan 
met "at home," and started the ball of conversation a-roll- 
ing. A secretary took down every word they were saying. This 
casual talk was the basis for the script. By the time they 
met again for rehearsal, Groucho had injected enough gags 
in the script to lift it into sheer travesty. He picks up a 
pun not only with his fellow actors, but deals devastatingly 
with his own comment. This implies an easy gift of steering 
conversation to comic destruction. 

Most of the writers of radio comedy began their work in 
other fields. Wilkie Mahoney, writer for Ed Wynn, was a 


contributor to the humorous magazines like Life and Judge. 
Harry Tugen was in the show business, took to writing for 
the stage and was eventually hired by Fred Allen as a special 
assistant on the "Town Hall" program. Harry Conn was a 
tap dancer. Sam Perrin, who writes for Phil Baker, played 
the trap drum. John R. Medbury, who writes thousands of 
gags from which Burns and Allen collect their material, 
started as a newspaper columnist. 

So, let not your calling deter you from making a try at 
the deadly stuff one calls radio humor. From an altruistic 
standpoint, you may prove to be the comedian's salvation. 
And you might suddenly wake up and find yourself famous 
or rich. 

Harry Conn reached the all-time high in salary for 
"humor writers." His contract with Jack Benny provided 
for payment of twenty-five per cent of the comedian's salary. 
This was in 1936 when Benny was getting seven thousand 
dollars a broadcast. Conn was subsequently under contract 
to Joe Penner's sponsors at a salary equal to that of Joe 
Penner one thousand five hundred dollars a program. 

The average weekly salary for a good gag writer is five 
hundred dollars, less than one-tenth of a good comedian. 
The highest paid gag-writer is Don Quinn, sole writer for 
the Fibber McGee (NBC) at three thousand seven hundred 
and fifty dollars a week. 

The Comedian's Taboos 

Pity the poor comedian, tied down by the taboos and 
decrees of radio. The presentation of humor by the human 
voice alone has created the unwritten laws of "good taste" 
and "public decency." The comedian is at the mercy of 
sponsors, agencies and networks and the regulations and 
rules must be followed no matter how cruel they appear. 

Fred Allen finds the restrictions on comedy style cramp- 


ing and oppressive. "Radio comedy," he says, "will remain 
in its infancy as long as network executives see fit to censor 
and blue-pencil scripts for the silliest reasons. They are 
holding back program progress by exercising editorial 
powers for the most absurd reasons." 

A more direct internal censorship has been discovered by 
Mort Lewis which he claims works to the disadvantage of 
writers of comedy. "There should be no favoritism in 
censorship," he urges. 

And further: "Various censorship restrictions are inter- 
preted by the network in different fashion, depending on 
the importance of the comedian. W. C. Fields uses types of 
jokes which are on the banned list though in the theater 
they wouldn't even be milk toast-mild. However, when an- 
other writer attempts to merely approach the Fields standard 
of rough-house humor with a lesser comedian, the script is 
completely censored. No wonder a radio comedy program is 
likely to be bad, when it must be entirely rewritten the day 
of the broadcast." 

Let us take some of the major restrictions with regard to 
topical events and personalities. 

President Roosevelt: It is not regarded in good taste to 
lend the president to the ridiculousness of a comedy pro- 
gram. Gags that favorably portray the Chief Executive are 
also generally shunned. Ed Wynn once used a joke about 
President Roosevelt, who could be known as the greatest 
lover of all time because of his supreme "courting." This 
piece of witticism was ruled out. 

President Roosevelt is reported to have stated his favorite 
joke of the year as the one recently aired on a Fibber McGee 
program. Against a background of "My friends . . ." chat- 
ter, a woman listener said, "Oh, Frank, get another station." 
The response that cheered Roosevelt was: "Myrtle, when 
you hear 'my friends' on the air, you can't get another 


Congress and American Politicians: Leave both groups 
severely alone. These topics cause hysterics with sponsors 
similar to the conniptions over Roosevelt gags. Ted Husing 
recalls a sponsor who forbade any gags "about that Delta of 
the Mississippi, Huey Long." The sponsor didn't love Huey 
but feared that the Senator, if offended, would sock a Louisi- 
ana state tax on the advertised product. 

Supreme Court: References to this august body are dis- 
couraged. Sponsors have been known to clip out the jokes 
mentioning the "nine old men." When issues are strongly 
divided in the public mind, the sponsor plays safe. 

Potentates of state, and ex-rulers still alive: Certain sub- 
tleties might pass, but comic references to General Franco, 
Hitler, Mussolini, when overdrawn are undiplomatic and 
would involve immediate protest from nationals. The net- 
works rigorously banned quips about the then Mrs. Simpson 
during the abdication period of the present Duke of 

Other actors: Here the test is the possible injury the joke 
may bring to the victims. References to Garbo's feet or Mae 
West's figure are approved because of their semi-advertising 
value for these ladies. The subject of Peggy Garcia's breach 
of promise suit against Rubinoff was not in the mentionable 
class. Nor was Jack Benny's smuggling venture with the 
United States Government. 

Fred Allen once complained that, "just because NBC 
happens to be sponsoring a symphonic series headed by 
Toscanini, no one can even mention the maestro's name. I 
wrote Toscanini's name into a script in a most compli- 
mentary manner, but it was ruled right out. I had to change 
the line to include Stokowski's name, but even then they 
urged me to substitute a fictitious take-off like Kotowski." 

Language Taboos: Here the laws of good taste prevail. 
Words that might provoke "trouble" are generally cut out. 
One seldom hears phrases such as "you're crazy," or "you're 


out of your head." Expressions like "dope," "hell," and 
"sex," are to be used with extreme caution. 

In the recent Allen-Benny feud, the comedians hurled 
the term "anemic" at each other frequently and with as 
much ferocity as the bloodless word could stand. The station 
was in receipt of many letters which complained "anemic 
might be a funny term to you, but it isn't so funny to a lot 
of people who are that way." 

When Jack Benny and Fred Allen make a joint appear- 
ance before the microphone they make a high spirited 
departure from the script. Jack Benny had a line about 
water over the darn. "Over the darn?" asked Fred. "Yes, you 
know how careful we have to be on the radio." A few 
minutes later WEAF received an angry phone call from a 
woman who said she represented the "League of Decency." 
"We caught the full implication of those 'over the darn' 
remarks," she said. "The National Broadcasting Company 
will hear from our organization tomorrow. You may count 
on it." 

Jokes involving long sequences: These are watched very 
carefully. In a long sequence joke, a listener tuning in 
during the middle, without having listened to the full con- 
text, might put a dirty meaning to what is being said 

Strikes: The sitdowners afforded many a wise crack, but 
to mention specific parties was not allowed. The WPA 
worker came in for his share of jibes, and it is indiscreet 
now to lampoon the man on relief. This is a sample of the 
kind of jokes that flourished: "Just read that a WPA worker 
broke his neck. Termites ate through his handle." 

Embarrassing incidents in the News: Public opinion splits 
on these matters, and the side favoring the victim will make 
vigorous protest. 

Laxative, diseases, bodily functions of any kind: Under 
the ban completely. Never try to ring in products like "Lydia 
Pinkham" or "Sloane's Liniment" or anything similar. 


While such products are not laxatives, there will be a nota- 
tion on the blue-pencilled joke stating that mention of other 
products is not countenanced. 

Smells and odors: Discouraged, unpleasant. In times past 
it was possible to use the word "skunk." Now it's generally 
crossed out. 

Religious matters: Absolutely taboo. Even so general a 
term as the word "church" has to be handled carefully. Phil 
Baker worked up a gag once about a skunk going to a very 
crowded church. "So you had to stand?" asks Bottle sympa- 
thetically. "Oh, no," says Baker, "he brought his own pew." 
A blue pencil was drawn through "church" and the phrase 
"animal temple" substituted. That's how it went out. 

Blue and Off-color jokes: These are slashed unmercifully 
as on screen and stage. Because of the mixed audience, air 
must be kept pure from suggestive smut, and sexy innuendo. 
A comedian who tells a joke that can be interpreted as 
offensive does immeasurable harm. Where to draw the line? 
Here the censor must use the nicest discrimination. Mrs. 
Freedman instanced this dialogue as the type that did not 
pass: Patient: "What does that sign down the hall say?" 
Doctor: "Please refrain from making a nurse." 

Human deformity, illness, disease, death: It takes a trigger 
mind to devise jokes along these lines that will not be con- 
sidered in bad taste. Even stuttering has fallen into the 
discard as a phase of radio humor. 

Industries and occupations: Jokes about insurance men 
and bankers are frowned upon, although vaudeville thrived 
on them for years. The story of the radio comedian who 
made the wise-crack about a pharmaceutical student who 
won his degree of Doctor of Philosophy because he was a 
whiz at making mayonnaise, won protests from drug 
stores all over the country. 

Ed Wynn was once asked not to use a joke referring to a 
million dollar baby and a five and ten cent store. 


Peoples, religions, creeds: The growth of intolerance has 
forcibly reflected itself in racial or dialectic humor. Certain 
races resent being burlesqued on the air, even if the kidding 
or story telling is done by a member of the race involved. 
The Scotch, with a super-developed sense of humor, are 
most tolerant of jokes at their expense. 

Comedians and other mike performers might think that 
they are getting a tough deal, but the strain that censorship 
puts on the network is infinitely tougher. At NBC, the task 
of censorship falls upon Miss Janet McRories, Continuity 
Acceptance Editor. 

The Comedian's Vocal Manners 

The voice guides the destiny of the radio comedian. 
Even gags that are dead in print can be prodded into hilari- 
ous life by the right vocal touch. Ideas can be made ridicu- 
lous by unusual pitches, sudden changes of inflection, 
exaggerated emphasis and unusual vocal coloring. 

Each comedian has a distinct vocal manner which identi- 
fies him with the radio audience. Bob Burns, for example, 
is uniformly rhythmical in speech. He rambles through his 
hill-billy stories with a sing-song monotony. Two arrangers 
found that his talk could be fitted to a musical time signature 
of 4/4 with an occasional lapse into 3/4 time. 

Phil Baker reflects the wise-guy, know-it-all tonality; Fred 
Allen dispenses nonsense nasally with sardonic overtones; 
Eddie Cantor builds up the punch line with high pitches 
and the exuberance of the "gee-whiz" school. In a lesser de- 
gree Al Jolson also carries on with youthful glee and swag- 
ger, and seems to have an endless amount of vitality. Jack 
Benny employs the drawl and wins a laugh even with a 
feeble gag. George Burns symbolizes the indulgent husband 
with a quality of voice that is half-kindly and half reproving. 

Gracie Allen's success in character is, in no small measure, 


due to her voice. The giggling high pitch of comic hysteria 
makes our ears act as the antennae of the ridiculous. Her 
tones match any answers. 

Beatrice Lillie was introduced to radio on Rudy Vallee's 
program. For twenty-six weeks as Beatrice Borden she pre- 
sented a type of humor that was unique on the air. She 
could no longer rely upon the mute eloquence of panto- 
mime, the flash of her eyes, the twist of her mouth, or the 
unexpected stumble of her feet. She had to rely upon her 
rare gift of conveying subtle double meanings. Her peculiar 
off-pitch intonations lend the quality of superb travesty to 
her spoofing. 

The most important asset of the comedian is to maintain 
an authenticity in voice that is his own peculiar impersona- 
tion. The slightest suggestion that the comedian has stepped 
out of "character" vocally, will break the rapport of the 
listener. Comic realism requires consistent portrayal in 

The radio audience has come to expect that the comedi- 
an's vocal manner be effortless, spontaneous and natural to 
the character portrayed. This apparent ease of manner is 
usually the result of hard years of trial and error on the 
stage. The successful radio comedian has worked out and 
perfected every mannerism in voice calculated to catch the 
laugh. The individual quality of voice in the comedian 
springs from the imagination. Without the ability to throw 
himself into "mood" the unconvincing rendering of lines 
will be fatal to any comedian. 

Ed Wynn, who galloped up to the microphone hysterically 
whooping life into many an embalmed joke, lays down this 
condition for the comedian's success: "Creative clowning 
must have an air of complete conviction on the part of an 
actor to achieve any success at all. To be a zany on the stage, 
a player must convince himself twice a day that he's as mad 
as a hatter, a trick which has come to be second nature 


when you've dabbled in lunacy as I have." The spirit of the 
comedian's performance often depends upon proper timing. 
All this is a matter of experiment, for what is good timing 
in vocal method for one comedian will be dismal for an- 
other. Ed Wynn reminds us that his stuff would sound 
terrible if some one else spoke his lines. 

George Jessel, piqued at not being able to get a start in 
radio, once observed that to succeed as a comedian "you 
must be able to make funny noises." As a supreme test for 
the comedian, someone suggested that he try to simulate the 
sounds which come from an oyster shuddering under a 
sprinkle of tabasco sauce. The tradition that funny noises 
are best suited for radio comedy is not likely to pass soon. 
There is always some new way of making a noise. 

Joe Penner started the "hollering" style of the simpleton 
that gave children and adults the idea of having a lot of 
noisy fun. It was a vogue this blatant manner of being 
comic sheer noise, pop bottle gurglings, gags, and bedlam, 
ending with a blast of catch phrases: "you naaasty man," 
"don't ever dooooo that," and "wanna buy a duck?" all en- 
toned in what Cyrus Fisher once called "a gloss-epiglottic" 
laugh and loose-nut delivery. 

Much of Phil Baker's success was due to the hollow malev- 
olent voice of his stooge "Beetle." The ghostly voice of the 
heckler belonged to Henry Arthur Ladd. The voice went 
through a filter and emerged from a radio loud speaker with 
a metallic quality that was the engineer's idea of how a 
ghost should talk. 

Words, too, have a way of tickling the ear. Fred Allen 
finds the word "puss" the surest comic word in the English 
language. Whenever he wants to be sure of a laugh on a line, 
he just calls someone "crinklepuss" or something like that 
at the end. 

Dialect is an important aid to the radio comedian. Here 
the comedian moves on dangerous ground, for dialect must 


be so convincingly real as to make us believe it is not dialect 
at all. It was generally believed that gags sounded funnier if 
they were presented in dialect rather than in normal voice. 
Those who have achieved distinction as dialecticians owe 
their success to their ability to build up a distinct per- 
sonality through voice. Through the dislocation of English 
sounds the laugh is achieved by phonetic burlesque. 

For many years Jack Pearl and his stooge Hall Cliff, kept 
alive on the vaudeville stage the Weberfieldian tradition. 
On the air for Lucky Strike, Pearl instituted the vogue for 
dialect with the same "Dutch" distortions, this time in the 
role of that master prevaricator, Baron Munchausen. Many 
were his followers who branched out into other dialects. 

Teddy Bergman first came to radio as ''Joe Palooka." He 
can expertly break into an imitation of a Swede, Jew, Dutch- 
man, and a score of other nationalities. One of his early 
brain children was Blubber, a big, helpless, overgrown boy 
of nineteen with nit-wit stuttering instincts when things 
went wrong. To achieve as a dialectician, study the dialect. 
Bergman tells how he tutored with a German butcher whose 
accent was so thick you could hardly cut it with his own 
cleaver. Next he picked his Italian iceman. 

The imaginative figure of Schlepperman which appeared 
in radio in 1933, was so clearly defined to his listeners that 
his creator, Sam Hearn, refused to write lines in his script 
that would seem alien. Hearn definitely fixed the vogue for 

A recent recruit to radio comedy via the Rudy Vallee 
program is Lew Lehr. His special talent lies in the use of a 
splutter of dialect which soars into subtle imitation and 
sophistication. For comedy effects he employs a broad lisp. 
His catch phrases "s'marvelous!" and "monkeys are the 
cwaziest people!" are enough to provoke visions of the man 
who grimaces for all Movietone News fans. He is at home 


equally in Jewish, Oxford, and Cockney dialect. For French 
he employs a horrible concoction of half French and half 
Jewish, because he says French dialect is not funny. 

The laugh of the comedian can indicate every sentiment 
from a gushing haw-haw to the most refined chuckle. The^ 
stooge who acts as assistant in lunacy, often contributed to 
comedy effects by the character of his laugh. When Don Wil- 
son guffaws, he actually enjoys the show no matter how 
many times he has heard it, and Harry von Zell is classed 
as one of the most honest laughers in radio. 

There is something of the laughing streak that Graham 
McNamee and Ed Wynn had in common. When Wynn went 
to a rival network he was forced to do without McNamee. 
Over a hundred announcers, lesser comics of the air, and 
actors were called to try out for the post of McNamee. They 
were asked to listen to transcriptions of Wynn's programs 
to see if they could copy McNamee's expert stooging style 
and his vocal manner. It was essential that the stooge selected 
not only know pace, and the adroit art of build-up, but also 
possess a microphone voice that carried dignity and could 
explode in a laugh. John S. Young was finally selected, but 
could not give Wynn that special lift that McNamee offered. 

Every radio comedian wishes there were truth in Ella 
Wheeler Wilcox's familiar saying: ''Laugh and the world 
laughs with you." Let the comedian try a merry, spontaneous 
laugh and he will soon find how hard the technique is. It 
is amazing how the ear of the listener catches the slightest 
false giggle or laugh. 


Timing is the comedian's sixth sense for the precise dia- 
logue pace which vitalizes his humor. If he applies himself 
at too swift or too slow a pace, the comedian's attempts may 
be tragic. Almost instinctively the comedian must anticipate 
the reaction of the listener. He may choose to burst the 


comic bubble with swift thrust, or indulge his comic fancy 
in slow feints and passes. 

All this implies that the comedian establishes a pace that 
is appropriate to his material and style. Only practice can 
determine how the audience will react. Timing for the 
comedian is not merely measurement by the clock of his 
rate of delivery. Timing also involves the use of appropriate 
phrase, pause, repetition, the laugh, and those nuances of 
intonation and delivery which are the life pulse of the jester. 
You must know when to pick up a joke and when to let go 
of it. Phil Baker has remarked that a radio comic, like a 
billiard champion, is lost without his cue. 

The first task of the radio comedian is to adjust his timing 
to listener reaction. Without a visible audience, it is difficult 
to gauge the tempo. Ed Wynn and Eddie Cantor used to 
establish mood and tempo by wearing burlesque costumes. 
Comedians, one by one, fell in line with the practice of car- 
rying on with studio audiences present. From the audience 
they got the feel of the split second where laughs will 

Many laughs in the studio are infectiously whipped into 
being by a laughing clique. Many believe that the uproarious 
laugh of the audience has only a nuisance value for the 
listener. Surveys will probably show that if the listener 
in the privacy of his home exults in the jokes of the co- 
median, he will join in the chorus laughter of the studio. If 
he finds the witticisms dull and labored, he will mentally 
berate the studio audience for blowing up into a laughing 

With Edgar Bergen, timing is the thing. Bergen not only 
has a split-second register of cues and rejoinders, but he also 
uses dialogue which is a semi-continued story around a 
character. Timing techniques vary with comedy styles: Allen 
dry, ironically nasal, moving along quickly with beautiful 
precision in word twists; Amos and Andy reflective; But- 


terworth vacuous, optimistic, owl-faced; Wynn boister- 
ous, raucous, fire-alarmist; Bob Burns measured, confiden- 
tial, in sing-song drawl. 

On a Lanny Ross-Charlie Butterworth program, Groucho 
and Chico Marx once slowed down in deference to radio 
tempo, on the theory that radio listeners can not keep pace 
with the rapid flow of wit. The result was flat and lagging 
because their straining for effects seemed too obvious. At a 
second trial, the zany went back to the headlong pace which 
is their successful and natural manner. The chief problem 
of comedy is to keep the tempo high. Fred Allen has been 
criticized for a delivery too fast for the ordinary ear. He re- 
fuses to retard his tempo, having found it successful during 
five years of experiment. 

Each member of a radio comedy must coordinate in tim- 
ing according to styles of playing. A stooge, for example, 
feeds a forceful line to Jack Benny, one calculated to irri- 
tate the vanity of the comedian. Benny might miss the point 
entirely; Mary might let out a nervous giggle; the dialect 
stooge or the conductor might pick up the subject with a 
"slow-burn," reaching the height of comedy as the laugh 
dissolved into the next part of the program. If timed exactly 
right, and timed to give each of the actofs a chance to regis- 
ter, the scene should successively garner the expected "spot 

To keep a program moving at a rapid pace, experiment 
has proved that there must be at least four "sock" gags 
a minute. This means sixty jokes for one fifteen-minute pro- 
gram. On a thirty-minute program, Wynn and Graham had 
some seventeen minutes of comedy between them. Wynn 
clocked his sure-fire laughs accurately, three to a minute, a 
laugh for every twenty seconds. The rest of the time was 
spent in building up for the laughs and feeding. Graham 
was the perfect "yes man" for the perfect fool. His timing 


was skilful and Wynn relied on him for his spontaneous 

Laughs are graded as "fair," "good," and "belly." The 
rounds of applause are carefully measured. It may seem like 
a Baron Munchausen tale, but it was accurately estimated 
that the best that Jack Pearl ever did was one hundred and 
twenty-six laughs and twenty-six rounds of applause in six- 
teen minutes, and that was a record. 

We may best illustrate these principles by a study of an 
actual broadcast of Ed Wynn on the A & P hour. 

Wynn: I've got a friend who is a boxer. Once he hung up 
his coat in a restaurant, but he was afraid someone would 
run off with it. 

This was the beginning of the joke, but since the audience 
began to titter the pace became slower. 

Graham: They do that. Philosophically. 

Wynn: What do you mean, "They do that?" Wynn is 
stalling now. 

Graham: They run off with them. I recognize that coat 
you've got on. Pause for laughs. Continues giggling. Then 
Wynn continues with the joke as he started. 

Wynn: This friend of mine was afraid someone would 
run off with his coat so he put a sign on it. He hung a sign 
on it saying, "This coat belongs to the champion boxer of 
the world and I'll be back." Here Wynn slows up in pace 
and makes funny noises, then continues. 

Wynn: Do you know what happened, Graham? Do you 
know what happened? Pause until the audience grasps the 
full meaning of the repetition. 

Graham: No. Chuckling, which is an accepted device in 
timing. What happened? 

Wynn: When he came back, Graham, he found another 
sign hanging where the coat had been. This sign said the 
sign said, "This coat was taken by the champion runner of 
the world, and I won't be back." 

The audience roars with laughter, but Wynn, listening 
carefully, decides he is not getting quite the laugh he wants. 
He waits for the first lull and then swiftly adds: 


Wynn: You know, Graham, I'm really surprised they 
laugh at some of these. At the finish laughter breaks out 
again. The unexpected touch makes the joke seem twice as 

Any comedy program may be similarly analyzed as to tim- 
ing. The slightest error in timing, the tiniest over-develop- 
ment spells ruin. If the gags are climaxed successfully, they 
mount up with increasing gales of laughter. It is evident that 
gags piled one on top of each other without regard to 
listener response will kill each other off. 

Holding Comic Control 

Analyze the technique of your favorite radio comedian. 
Observe how effects are gained by surprise ending, or by 
some misuse or twist of phrase, or by some incongruity which 
captures the mind. The personality and style of the co- 
median vary, but there are definite principles which guide 
both the comedian and the writer. We may here briefly 
set the important rules for holding comic control. 

1. The first device employed by the radio comedian is 
that of speed. Listeners who are kept on the run have no 
time in which to be analytical. There is a certain hypnotic 
control that follows with the swingier and swifter pace. 

2. The second device flows from the vigor and animation 
of the performer. It is a vocal manner that infects the listener 
irresistibly. The whole scene is suffused by the personality of 
the comedian whose superior strength is unquestioned. It 
is his duty to sustain this rapport with the listeners until 
the end of the program. The principal characteristic of Ed 
Wynn's style has been its speed, no joke longer than a line 
or two, and one gag piled on top of another. He avoids the 
long story. The full measure of joy in life seems to come 
tumbling forth in an endless torrent. 

3. Under-emphasis in comedy is another trick of timing. 


Ken Murray explained imder-emphasis as rising toward the 
climax with zest and then throwing the punch away by let- 
ting it down with a mumble as if they had lost interest. 

4. The building of a gag requires craftsmanship. The 
comedian works up to his climax, without overdoing it. A 
long-drawn-out gag is generally fatal if the expectancy of 
the listener is not fulfilled in the laugh. Avoid unnecessary 
detail. Only by a means of a suppression of considerable and 
even essential part of the action, is an effect of wit or humor 
obtained. The trick lies in leaving the actual progress of 
events to the imagination of the listener. We laugh when we 
are forced to a delightful inference. 

5. In wit which involves a play on words, the listener's 
attention must pause twice, on meaning and on sound. If 
the effort, however swift, is not regarded as worth while, 
woe to the pun! A good gag must have a conclusion that is 
perfectly obvious to the average listener. They must see 
through it at once. Humor is delightful when it explodes, 
dismal when explained. 

6. The "punch" line stirs the laugh. In a series of laughs, 
the comedian crowds one stimulus on the heels of the other, 
and leads the imagination back and forth with a swiftness 
that sets the listener wondering what is coming next. The 
laugh gives that moment of relaxation for the listener to 
adjust his interest for the next "punch" line. For twelve 
minutes of talk, a comedian generally allows a spread of fif- 
teen minutes. 

7. The comedian may laugh with us, but is a failure if 
he is suspected of laughing at his own jokes. The true co- 
median makes us feel he is laughing at laughter. 

8. If a pun or a gag misses fire, four things must have 
happened: (a) The audience has failed to imagine the situa- 
tion; (b) the situation when imagined does not turn out to 
be a laughable one; (c) too much effort has been made in 
picking up the similarity in sound on which the pun is 


based; (d) the listener is already familiar with the gag or 
pun which has been previously done to death on the air. 

The Future of the Radio Comedian 

Radio comedians suffer from the obsession that the kilo- 
cycles were made to kill them off. The depleted stock of gags 
constantly threatens them with starvation. Few of them 
have had long microphone life. Those that survive have 
their week divided into seven nightmares. Such is the dismal 
side of the comedian's career. 

Because of this intense strain on the comedian, Groucho 
Marx turned down a sponsor's offer with the plea: "They 
wanted to sign us up for two years but I held out for six 
weeks. This sounds a little crazy, but the thought of getting 
twenty pages of jokes together even old jokes every seven 
days was too much for us to contemplate." 

But let us fully consider some of the ills of radio comedy. 
Max Eastman in a radio interview with Rudy Vallee as- 
serted that the making of jokes has become the world's most 
difficult labor. He offers no panacea for the comedians' 
plight, but warns them not to overexert: "This business of 
turning out forty thousand jokes a week for the radio mar- 
ket has become a serious business," suggests Eastman; "that's 
the trouble with it. The speed is too high, competition too 
strong. The play is out of it and that's why humor is stiff 
in the joints. I can't see any cure for it except to get more 
comedians and not work them so hard not let them work 
so hard. Bring up the chairs and force them into a sitdown 

Radio, however, cannot be held entirely responsible for 
the dearth of new jokes. "Men cannot always be inventing 
new jokes," says Aldous Huxley, "any more than they can 
be inventing new religions or new styles of poetry." 

The comedian cannot be blamed if he relies on certain 


venerable laughter-provoking traditions. Always his task is 
formidable. He must keep abreast of the times. He must 
show folly at its height. He must expose the prejudices and 
caprices of mankind and account for the incongruities in a 
world which is topsy-turvy. He must give the mind a swift 
holiday from the severities of life. He must release laughter, 
and let us look at our fellow beings in some sort of carica- 
ture. He must contradict our very senses. 

The presentation of humor by the voice alone has forced 
the comedian to create new techniques. He is just beginning 
to discover himself. Stephen Leacock reminds us that the 
nineteenth century took its humor through books, the 
printed page stimulating the mind to create pictures. 
"Presently," predicts Leacock, "the perfection of television 
and the invention of talking books will further alter 

Many would provide the future comedian with a training 
in his art; instead of serving his apprenticeship by crude 
imitation of others, he would get a basic understanding in 
first principles before being turned loose on the air. Mort 
Lewis, himself a prolific writer of radio skits looks to the col- 
leges for such instruction. He seriously proposes: 

"There should be courses started by colleges or the broad- 
casting chains to train writers in the art of radio comedy. 
In spite of the tremendous amount of junk perpetrated on 
the programs, and I plead guilty to being responsible for 
some of it there is an art or definite technique to comedy 
program construction which must be learned. It is exceed- 
ingly difficult for the beginner to break in, so a prospective 
writer, no matter what his talent, has little chance to learn 
the trade. A practical course could be initiated in charge of 
some comedy writer or production man, with lectures once 
in a while by some of our more articulate comics such as 
Fred Allen. After all, there are college courses in scenario 
writing and play writing." 


Already courses in "humor" have been established in some 
colleges. In 1937, Professor W. E. Moore of the University 
of Florida announced: "The university is going to have a 
course in Humor, but it won't teach how to be an end-man 
or a radio comedian." This in itself is a supreme wise-crack, 
that would bring chuckles to those comedians who get five 
thousand dollars a week and over without benefit of uni- 
versity studies to wit. 

Character portrayal has never reached great heights in 
radio comedy. Comedians are searching for a formula as 
certain as that of Amos 'n' Andy. This saga of the air has 
gone through over three thousand episodes in its more than 
eight years of life over NBC. And each episode epitomized 
in some way, the comic spirit that envelops the hopes and 
frustrations of mankind. Charles Correll (Andy) and Free- 
man Gosden (Amos) have always written their scripts them- 
selves. "We never could get anybody who could write what 
we needed. Writers always came to us with a lot of jokes." 

Radio is beginning to take its cue from written comedy. 
The enduring humor of the world is fashioned about char- 
acters like Don Quixote and his English cousin Falstaff. 
And so, comedy writers have realized that audiences like 
to ally themselves with some personality who can mirror 
their own foibles. Who knows but that some great radio 
Mark Twain shall arise to create comedy figures that will 
endure because they typify for all the world the escape from 
the burdening formula of our lives? 

Sophisticates who sneer at radio humor will never be 
satisfied with our present comic fare. They forget that radio 
comedy must be mass humor. All men differ about the laugh- 
able. A man is born to see a particular joke or he is not. A 
radio comedian cannot educate him into it. 

Radio cannot hope to regenerate comedy as long as every 
radio joke is subject to censorship, and must run the gaunt- 
let of prejudices, reformers, educational groups and every 


variety of taboo. Comedy is based on the common denomi- 
nator for laugh in all sections of the country, covering all 
ages and all conditions. 

Critics may continue to clamor for smart dialogue and 
sophisticated comedy. Experiments with studio audiences 
have proved that the listeners react best to the simplest 
puns and to the most obvious situations. Radio has not pro- 
duced great writers of comedy who have produced wit that 
is robust and endearing. Specialists in this medium prefer 
the stereotyped forms that can be turned out with least 
effort. The best writers fight shy at writing original skits 
for air production. 

Radio comedians employ a writing staff, highly special- 
ized. The ' 'situation" writers create the locale and the plot. 
The gag men weave their jokes in and about the story. It is 
left for re-write men to polish up the script. Because revue 
sketches are as difficult to write as plays, the technique calls 
for the condensation of inflated anecdotes within the scope 
of a few pages, instead of over three acts. And from first to 
last it must be calculated to hold the listener. 

In the good old vaudeville days, comediajak could, with 
safety, stick to their one act year after year. \|nce the com- 
edy offering is flung nationwide over the air, the thing is 
dead. Every radio skit thus has a short life and perhaps a 
merry one. If it were humor of the eternal kind, it would 
survive on the printed page. 

Benjamin de Casseres finds the greatest danger that con- 
fronts this country today is the absence of a national humor- 
ist ''to inspect three-fourths of the things the country takes 
over-seriously and loosen them up with gales of laughter." 
The time is ripe for the arrival of a national humorist like 
Will Rogers who will throw bombshells of wit to perpetuate 
our democratic ideals. "Nothing," adds de Casseres, "takes 
the sufficing out of a curved shirt like a well-aimed guffaw. 


No wonder Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin fear those that make 
fun of them more than they do the assassin's bomb." 

Mort Lewis holds little hope for the future of radio comedy 
unless the writer is left to his own devices without undue 
sponsor interference. He gives a true picture of the condi- 
tions that confront the writer of comedy: 

"There are a few sponsors, thank heaven," says Lewis, 
"who have sufficient confidence in their writers and produc- 
tion men to leave them more or less alone. But a great many 
sponsors insist on injecting elements which appeal to the 
sponsor alone, and bore the audience. The writer, being on 
the payroll must comply, or lose the program. A competent, 
established comedian and his comedy writer should have 
full sway on what comedy elements go into a program. 

"There should be one boss on the program. There is one 
well known program that has six or seven bosses. The re- 
hearsal is a mad house, and the script writers don't know 
whom they have to please. They get four or five different 
suggestions for the week's script, each one contradicting the 

Comedy will continue to be of gravest importance on well 
balanced programs. Radio today faces the enormous task 
of the New Deal in Comedy. 


R\DIO has been called the "Handmaid of the Churches." 
The microphone now spreads far and wide the doc- 
trine of the moral life to multitudes who never have visited 
churches or opened a religious book. 

Services over the air began inauspiciously. On January 2, 
1921, for the first time anywhere in the world, a minister's 
voice spoke into the microphone. The voice was that of the 
Reverend Edwin J. Van Etten, Rector of the Calvary Epis- 
copal Church of Pittsburgh, pronouncing the vespers ser- 
vice over Station KDKA. Listeners heard a homely parable 
from the second book of Samuel, which called forth the 
Rector's admonition: "When you are lost in the woods, fol- 
low the rule of the open road choose the better road at 
every fork." Only a few hundred were privileged to hear 
the broadcast through crystal sets, but bundles of apprecia- 
tive letters encouraged the minister to repeat the service. 
The powerful appeal of the radio pulpit was just beginning 
to be realized. 

Ten years passed before the Church of Rome adopted 
the new medium. Through the munificence of Marconi, Sta- 
tion HVJ (Holy Vatican Jesus) was established on Vatican 
Hill. Pius XI was the first in history to pronounce over the 
microphone a papal benediction to the faithful all over the 
world. The pope sat at a draped desk in a tiny room and 
through a golden microphone, came the quivering voice of 
His Holiness in alloquy to all creation: "Qui arcane Dei 
consilio succedimus loco Principis Apostelarum . . ." 

The early history of radio preaching is the record of vio- 
lent denominational battles on the air. Sunday thundered 



his doctrinal preaching and critical attacks of the faiths one 
upon the other. A high degree of sectarianism sought to 
fulfill its mission of gathering in converts. Conditions grew 
more and more discordant. No outside power had as yet 
evolved any method to control the situation. 

To-day the pulpit of the air is not regarded as a means of 
inculcating dogma and creed, but is linked with education 
as a social process and product. The authority of the radio 
sermon lies in its emphasis on universal truths rather than 
upon special doctrine. The minister becomes the special re- 
former and the educator when he fights every form of social 

The National Broadcasting System, upon its organization 
in 1927, gave impetus to a sort of voluntary code of religious 
broadcasting. Shortly after the formation of the network, the 
company took steps to place religious broadcasting on a 
plane of greater dignity. 

A standing committee consisting of representatives of the 
Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths was appointed to con- 
sider the question of the national dissemination of religious 
doctrine over the radio. As a result of these conferences, the 
National Broadcasting Company formulated the policies to 
which it now holds: 

1. Only such faiths are served as are the central or na- 
tional agencies of great religious bodies, as, for example, 
the Protestant, the Roman Catholic, and the Jewish faith, 
as distinguished from the individual churches of small group 
movements where the national membership is comparatively 

2. The religious message should be non-sectarian and non- 
denominational in its appeal. 

3. The religious broadcast should be of the widest appeal, 
presenting only the broad claims of religion, which not only 
aid in building up the personal and special life of the indi- 
vidual, but also aid in popularizing religion and the church. 


4. The religious message broadcast should interpret re- 
ligion at its highest and best, so that as an educational fac- 
tor, it will bring the individual listener to realize his re- 
sponsibility to the organized church and to society. 

5. The national religious messages should be broadcast 
by the recognized outstanding leaders of the several faiths 
as determined by the best counsel and advice available. 

The Columbia Broadcasting System adapted a policy simi- 
lar to that of NBS in the fall of 1931, announcing that it 
would not sell time for religious broadcasting. The issue 
was brought to a climax by the vituperative sermons of 
Father Coughlin, which up to then had been broadcast over 
the networks under contract. This forced Father Coughlin 
to engage the facilities of an independent network of twenty- 
seven stations. 

Free time is given in rotation to the major faiths. A half 
hour each Sunday morning and afternoon is turned over to 
the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Christian Science, Mormon 
and Dutch Churches. No discrimination is made against 
other religious bodies, but time if offered only when time is 
available and if the broadcast comes within the meaning of 
public interest. Like NBC, the Columbia Broadcasting Sys- 
tem makes the provision that all broadcasts shall be con- 
structive in character and free from attack on members of 
the clergy or lay members of any denomination. 

Personality in Radio Preaching 

The greatest problem of the Church of the Air has always 
been the selection of religious leaders whose personality 
would stand the test of the microphone. Failure in this field 
has made possible the aspersion -that radio is the graveyard 
of many a preacher. In principle, the responsibility of select- 
ing preachers and religious programs is shifted by the net- 
works upon lay or religious bodies, such as the Federation 


of Churches of Christ in America for the Protestants, the 
National Council of Catholic Men, for the Catholics, and the 
United Synagogues of America for the Jews. 

The measure of the preacher's power over the air lies in 
those elusive qualities that make up the "radio personality." 
All the native endowment and ability of the minister is 
evident by his manner of speaking. The minister may ob- 
serve all the rules of his art, but be "faultily faultless, icily 
regular, and splendidly null." Some divine has said that a 
man of small personality cannot preach a great sermon, and 
a man of great personality, though he may preach a small 
sermon, will yet put behind it such driving power that it 
will seem great and have a great effect. Radio has a way of 
disclosing the master qualities in preaching. 

The Sunday radio pulpit found a preacher of powerful 
personality in the late S. Parkes Cadman, who established 
an enormous following. Dr. Cadman was the innovator of 
the question and answer period as a regular feature of the 
radio religious service. He carried over this method from 
his unbroadcast hour which he had conducted for many 
years at a Brooklyn Branch of the YMCA. At these meetings, 
members of the audience at the close of his address were 
privileged to ask questions affecting their personal prob- 
lems. Dr. Cadman answered these questions impromptu. 

The vogue of Dr. Cadman attracted the attention of NBC. 
The minister was finally persuaded to broadcast over the 
national network every Sunday afternoon. The first broad- 
cast was conducted only as an experiment, but Dr. Cadman 
virtually remains the first preacher in the United States 
to have been heard regularly over the air. In 1928, he be- 
came radio pastor for the Federal Churches of Christ in 
America. He, himself, was the son of a minister who for forty 
years had occupied the pulpit, but in one hour's sermon Dr. 
Cadman reached more listeners than did his father during 
those forty years. 


What secret lies behind Dr. Cadman's extraordinary ap- 
peal? "Broadcasting was very difficult for me in those days," 
he confessed. "In addition to the tremendous responsibility 
of trying to preach so that everyone, regardless of his faith, 
would receive some spiritual guidance, I had the problem 
of altering my entire technique. As a minister, my oratory 
was of the fiery type; I gesticulated, walked up and down 
the platform while speaking. With only a microphone to 
catch my speech, I could no longer do that. If I walked away 
from it, the radio audience would be tuned out. At the be- 
ginning my friend, Halsey Hammond, secretary of the Y 
where I conducted my weekly get-togethers, sat on the plat- 
form with me. If I began to walk away from the microphone, 
he gently tugged at my coat; if I was forgetting the invisible 
audience, only considering the visible one, I got a tap on my 
leg with his toe." 

It was thus in the first instance that Dr. Cadman was able 
to adapt himself to the microphone. Secondly, Dr. Cadman 
was prompt to realize that the radio ministry is compelled 
to speak with a tolerant attitude toward workers in denomi- 
national fields other than his own. In many ways he disliked 
sectarianism. With an unwearied enthusiasm in humanity 
and no hesitation in attacking social problems in a militant 
way, he had none of the scheming political approach of 
Father Coughlin. Prizefights, jazz, tabloid newspapers, the 
United States Senate every phase of the contemporary 
scene came under his analysis. 

The "Question and Answer Period" of Dr. Cadman's 
broadcasts established a relationship with his audience that 
no other preacher had accomplished. Indeed, he anticipated 
the audience participation programs by nearly ten years. 
If the question echoed the listener's own problem, the 
listener felt as if he were an active participant at the meet- 
ing. He came to grips with their everyday situations. 

"How can a father save his boy from being spoiled by an 


over-indulgent mother?" . . . "Shall I marry outside my 
faith?" . . . "What should a girl do who got mixed up in 
a mess by taking advantage of this new freedom?" . . . "Should 
I take military training in a school where it is compulsory 
or shall I refuse pointblank?" . . . "How can I get a job?" 
. . . "How can I make friends?" (This was in the days before 
the good Dale Carnegie.) 

The technique of question and answer was unconven- 
tional but required some control. Questions were written 
out on slips of paper by members of the audience and read 
aloud by an assistant immediately after the formal address. 
The discussion took on something of the nature of a lively 
conversation. The secret of Dr. Cadman's art lay in that easy 
charm which was his special gift the ability to talk to people 
and not at them. Although booming in his tone at times and 
inclined to sharp stress, his resonant voice imparted to his 
words a vigor that it is difficult to parallel in our present- 
day radio preachers. 

Let us submit one of the typical questions and answers. 
The question: "Why do men demand so much of women 
today without being willing to give them the protection of 
marriage. What shall I do?" The answer of Dr. Cadman: 
"Any man who claims he loves a woman and wishes to de- 
grade her personality and destroy her self-respect is a hum- 
bug, unworthy of one's friendship. Does the young man re- 
vere you as the prospective mother of his children, does he 
regard you as God's co-partner in creating life? If he does 
not, have nothing to do with him." 

The market crash of October 1929 lifted Father Coughlin 
into national fame as the voice that spread hope and promise 
of a new order. He began to preach politics and found a 
ready ear in millions of Americans who, broken and crushed 
by the economic tornado, were wondering where to flee for 
shelter. Father Coughlin seized upon the mass emotions of 
the people and provided them with the answer. He sought 


out the villains who were responsible for the economic 
debacle, the "international bankers," "the money changers 
in the temple," "the wolves in sheeps clothing who want to 
shake hands with Soviet Russia." 

During the years 1929, 1930 and 1931, the Catholic minis- 
ter loomed up largely as the tribune of the people ready to 
bring comfort to an outraged citizenry. He was even men- 
tioned as a possible dictator. He declared over the air, 
"When the ballot becomes useless, I shall have the courage 
to stand up and agitate the use of bullets." 

Father Coughlin's attacks on the administration of Presi- 
dent Roosevelt were bold, merciless, and marked by vitupera- 
tion. At the Townsend Old Age Pension Convention at 
Cleveland in July 1936, he flayed the President as a "liar," 
"double-crosser," and "betrayer." His intemperate remarks 
are said to have called forth the rebuke of the Vatican, and 
compelled a full personal apology in an open letter to the 
President. He claimed that his words would have been re- 
strained had they not been delivered extemporaneously "in 
the heat of civic interest and in righteous anger." 

The fall of Father Coughlin was heralded by the over- 
whelming vote of confidence the American people gave to 
Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Struck by the futility of his 
appeal to the American electorate, Father Coughlin an- 
nounced that he was leaving the air "forever," but in spite 
of this announcement he continued as the critic of the 
administration and the oracular voice of the National Union 
for Social Justice which he had created. 

At the outset of his career Father Coughlin's sermons 
dealt largely with moral problems. More and more he began 
to show his ability and courage in handling the social ques- 
tions of the hour. Dr. John Haynes Holmes, a severe yet im- 
partial critic of Father Coughlin, ventured to say in 1934 
that Father Coughlin "has done us all a service in preaching 
politics and herewith vindicating the mission of the church 


to save society as the condition of saving men and women. 
Indeed I would go so far as to assert that there is not a 
Roman priest, nor a Protestant clergyman in America to- 
day, who is not a freer man, in his preaching and public 
service as a result of Father Coughlin's superb example of 
plain speaking at the microphone." 

Dr. Holmes appraised Father Coughlin's radio sermons 
as an amazing personal performance that showed up the peril 
of radio to the nation's life. "The mixture of good and bad 
in this latest, most miraculous of man's inventions, and the 
exclusive potency of this mixture, appeals to the imagina- 
tion. In the Sunday afternoon addresses of Father Coughlin, 
we see the radio at what may speedily become its worst and 
certainly its most dangerous stage." 

Father Coughlin used all the tricks of oratory to arouse 
passion. He called the president a "liar," but later expressed 
his sincere "apology" for his language. He knew how to vary 
his effects so as to give the mind of the listener a chance to 
recover. He led up to climaxes through artful periods of 
calm. It was the manner of the earnest orator the man 
who carries the torch of propaganda into the very midst of 
the enemy, winning hosts of adherents. His words came with 
a soothing cadence and then changed to booming tonalities 
that lifted the listener from lethargy to a fury of protest. 
Father Coughlin's remarkable appeal required elaborate 
preparation. He himself made no secret of it. He was well- 
primed before he began to talk to his vast congregation of 
the air. 

"I write the discourse," he confided, "first in my own 
language, the language of a cleric. Then I rewrite it, using 
metaphors the public can grasp, toning the phrases down to 
the language of the man-in-the-street. Sometimes I coin a 
word to crystallize attention. Radio broadcasting, I have 
found, must not be high hat. It must be human, intensely 
human. It must be simple, but it must be done up in meta- 


phors. It must deal with something vital to the life of the 
people. It must be positive." 

An examination of his method shows that he is direct and 
apparently factual, giving names, dates, figures, particulars. 
It is one thing to call Will Rogers "The millionaire court 
jester of the billionaire oil men"; it is quite another to name 
the bankers and describe the abuse. At one time ironical 
and at another time suggestive, Father Coughlin turns to 
such images as these: 

"Capitalism is a conspiracy against the immortal soul of 
mankind. Marxian Socialism and Capitalism are Siamese 
twins and both are blind. Shall it be Karl Marx or Jesus 
Christ to lead us? The NRA is like a fine motor car but 
equipped with flat tires. A capable driver is in the seat." 
And there you have the personal method and philosophy of 
a man who was likened by a woman biographer to "the 
modern Savonarola stripping bare the vices of a materialistic 

Father Coughlin's sudden rise to prestige and power and 
his swift dwindling of influence were equally phenomenal. 
Multitudes regarded him as a fearless public leader, and 
multitudes looked upon him as the "most vicious single 
propagandist in the entire United States." 

In 1926 Father Coughlin was an unknown Catholic priest 
when he stepped before the microphone at the local station 
WJR in Detroit. Only a few hundred people heard him 
then, but from the first he showed a complete mastery of 
the peculiar technique of radio. Soon he was to engage the 
facilities of a national hook-up at a cost of fourteen thousand 
dollars an hour. In 1933 he stood before a battery of micro- 
phones at the Hippodrome in New York and preached cur- 
rency inflation to an audience estimated at over thirty 

In answer to a single radio appeal he received one million 
two hundred and fifty thousand letters. By virtue of his 


radio preaching he was able to erect the Shrine of the Little 
Flower at an expense of more than a million dollars con- 
tributed by his admiring listeners. 

Time will appraise Father Coughlin in the right perspec- 
tive. Those who called him "repetitious" and tiresome failed 
to appreciate his talents. Severer critics look upon him as 
possessing faults, which sooner or later were sure to be ex- 
posed. In the first place, Father Coughlin spoke with pro- 
phetic zeal on political and economic problems to which 
he had not given extensive study. Secondly, he abandoned 
reason for mass emotion, appealing to the prejudices of the 
crowd, invoking their manias, and siding immediately with 
the popular side of every issue. "It is from such wild winds 
of fury," says Dr. Holmes, "that the storms of Fascism 

Microphone Injunctions for the Minister 

The Minister who wishes to be kind to the microphone 
should heed certain injunctions: 

1. Don't read in a ministerial tone, Some ministers are 
accustomed to the "holier than thou' attitude when preach- 
ing from the pulpit. On the air this approach is exhibited 
vocally by a "ministerial whine." Every utterance rings with 
exaggerated emotion. The pitch takes an habitual upward 
slide at the end of sentences. Instead of deeply sincere re- 
ligious appeal, the effect is one of mock seriousness. Ministers 
should have records made of their sermons and study them 
with a view to remedying this defect. 

2. Don't deliver a sermon too "dramatically." Many min- 
isters read Bible passages as if they were putting on a show. 
There is such a thing as an excess of art. The ministers 
should be Concerned with ideas, not with words. The mental 
attitude should be that of communicating directly to the 
hearers as one does in conversation. 

3. An habitual over-use of strong stress jars the ear. The 


effect is often brutally sharp and dogmatic. A good sermon 
should be like a wedge, all telling and to the point, but the 
hammer strokes of heavy emphasis without subordination 
destroy the feeling for communication. The conventional 
touch is more effective for radio. 

4. Over enunciation on the careful bits of consonants has 
a cutting effect on the listener. Certain words demand more 
precise pronunciation like: repent eth, thy, thine didst, 
Whithersoever. To carry this over-precision to every word 
is to mar the rhythm of conversation. 

The radio preacher who draws attention to his vocal per- 
formance defeats his purpose. He will lose the sense of 
"gentleness" which is the gift of the masterful radio preacher. 

Language That Lulls or Inspires 

Radio preachment often loses force and character be- 
cause the minister has tied himself down to language and 
diction that is obscure. Ideas become obscured in the dark 
clouds of rhetoric. Noble and reverent sentiments are 
weighted by Latin phraseology. Abstract prepositions, rolled 
out with solemn declaration, leave the listener in an abstract 

The difference between a successful and a mediocre radio 
preacher often lies in his choice of words and in his power 
of imagery. Concrete words that suggest the visible object, 
always are better than abstract concepts. Every word can be 
made to tell the lively effect. The radio preacher should 
study his sermon from the standpoint of its picture-making 
influence on the listener. Suggestive words and phrases call 
up images that are vivid and alive to the listener's ex- 
perience. Great moral truths are often riveted upon the mind 
by illustrations that linger in the memory long after the 
sermon is forgotten. The deepest and most abstract things in 
theology can be made understandable over the air, by this 


Monotony is the bugbear of all religious preachers on the 
air. This is due to a persistent abundance of strong stress; a 
cadence that is over lofty; a quality of voice peculiarly 
tinged with super solemnity. It is a species of elocution, 
long accepted and practiced in the leading theological semi- 
naries. Sepulchral tones of exhortation miss true warmth 
and spiritual quality. If this speech pattern is continued over 
a quarter of an hour, the voice lulls the mind to drowsiness. 
Organ music or sacred songs that follow the sermon come 
as a welcome relief. 

Does Radio Cramp the Preacher? 

Many ministers believe that preaching is losing its power 
and vitality because of the microphone. The Reverend James 
M. Gillis, C.S.P., editor of The Catholic World, in an ad- 
dress before the Institute of Human Relations, expresses 
the opinion that broadcast sermons in most cases lessen the 
effect of the minister's personality by half. "Personal mag- 
netism," he said, "is required in preaching the word vastly 
more than in any other form of public speaking." 

It is recognized that preaching to a visible congregation 
and preaching to unseen listeners are two different ap- 
proaches. Not every minister can become efficient in both 
arts. Many a preacher, like many a public speaker, becomes 
demagnetized in the presence of a microphone. Radio 
preaching imposes definite restrictions which binds the min- 
ister down to the regulations of the network. Father Gillis 
protests: "Religion is a flame, a fire, a battle. In such a 
world as this the message of true religion should not be po- 
lite, inoffensive. Quite naturally radio corporations and spon- 
sors don't want disturbers on their program. They depre- 
cate conflict of religious opinion. They demand that radio 
preachers shall not give offense." 


The radio minister can bring about a baptism of spiritual 
enthusiasm by studying the correct methods of appeal over 
the air. He should have something to say and say it with 
appropriate voice. The voice that preaches the message of the 
Church should be the noblest voice that it is possible for 
the denominational body to secure. His spirit should carry 
over the microphone with warmth and sincerity. He should 
have something of the inspirational touch so that his words 
are impounded with ideas rather than sound. 

Radio demands a more personal manner in religious 
preachment from the vocal standpoint. The approach should 
be in the more direct tone of conversation, varied by such 
emotional changes as the thought inspires. If keyed in the 
same pitch or exaggerated in melody, the religious message 
often palls when it should exalt. 

Empty Pews and Dialed-out Sermons 

Successful preaching is never associated with empty pews 
or with dialed-out receivers. The success of the radio minis- 
ter depends not only on how he speaks but what he says. 
The problem of writing the radio sermon becomes the most 
perplexing of the minister's tasks. Some sharp criticism 
on sermon composition has been made by the ministry 
itself. Recently, the Rev. Dr. Frederick S. Fleming, Director 
of Trinity Parish, startled the church world by suggesting 
a moratorium on preaching for a period of one or two years. 
"The sermons of today," he declared, "are for the most part 
a very poor addition of topical homilies, a brand of religious 
pep talks sailing forth for a transitory popularity under the 
guise of being inspirational. There is practically no preach- 
ing worth the name to be found." 

If this be true radio offers the most powerful medium for 
preaching of the higher type. So great is the influence of re- 
ligion and so powerful the influence of men who speak from 


their privileged position, that both the context and the man- 
ner of speaking should be above the commonplace. 

What is the predominant quality of successful preaching? 
The answer given by the leading divines uses the one word 
"interestingness." "Our obvious trouble," avers Dr. Fosdick, 
"is that the mediocre sermon, even when harmless, is unin- 
teresting. It could as well be unsaid." 

The minister has the task of selecting an interesting theme, 
and enriching it with illustration and application for the 
personal lives of his audience. Dr. Fosdick urges these pre- 
cepts on the minister who would aspire to the wider field 
of broadcasting: "There is nothing that people are so in- 
terested in as themselves, their own problems and the way 
to solve them. The fact is basic. No preaching that rejects 
it can raise a ripple on a congregation. It is the primary 
starting point of all successful speaking, and for once the re- 
quirement of practical success and ideal helpfulness coin- 

The Bishop of Bristol in a broadcast before the war took 
a hopeful view of radio preaching. Religious broadcasting, 
in his opinion, spreads an atmosphere of greater spiritual 
reality. Radio has not provided something in the nature 
of a brand-new religion, but it has exercised a harmonizing 
influence upon denominational divisions within the Chris- 
tian Church. The formula in England for religious broad- 
casting is much as in America. Both countries are confronted 
with congregations of the air, varied in tastes and different 
in opinion. How shall radio meet the situation? This is the 
answer of the Bishop of Bristol: 

"The form of service provided must be such as will satisfy 
older worshipers, who long to hear familiar melodies and to 
receive traditional exhortation and yet, at the same time, 
attract younger worshipers who need to have religious val- 
ues re-stated in terms of the New World in which they 
are growing up." 


What's the Matter with the Radio Sermon? 

The application of homiletics to radio preaching appears 
quite simple. Perhaps the most successful radio preacher of 
today is Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick whose Sunday message 
over the air is a guiding light in the spiritual lives of hosts 
of listeners. He has laid down several principles that will be 
helpful to the radio preacher. "A sermon," according to Dr. 
Fosdick, "may begin in any one of three ways. Two of these 
ways are wrong. If the sermon begins with a text, or the 
exposition of an idea, dullness and futility result. The other 
way to failure is to have the genesis of the sermon in his own 

Fosdick explains this type of minister as one who plays 
Sir Oracle. "He is dogmatic, assertive, uncompromising. He 
flings out his dicta as though to say to his hearers, 'Take it or 
leave it.' He has settled the matter concerning which he is 
speaking, and he is telling us." Father Coughlin often as- 
sumed this manner, indulged in unrestrained, violent and 
irresponsible statements. He gave the impression of a cleric 
who easily becomes intoxicated by the sound of his own 

The third and successful way to create a sermon is what 
Dr. Fosdick calls "a cooperative enterprise" between the 
preacher and his congregation. This seems the most desir- 
able method with the congregation of the radio audience. 

The radio preacher who is thinking of a real difficulty 
in the lives of his listeners finds himself removed from dog- 
matic thinking because there is a cooperative thinking be- 
tween himself and his audience. Fosdick's definition of 
preaching emphasizes the personal relationship of the min- 
ister with the individual listener's own problems. 

Successful radio preaching holds a powerful interest for 
the listener when it is couched with persuasion. Fosdick's 


preaching is aimed at a transformation of personality. Any 
preacher who can convey this subtle understanding to a 
listener far removed from the cloistered walls of the church 
is a master of the word of God. 

"Preaching is wrestling with individuals over questions of 
life and death, and until that idea of it commands a preach- 
er's mind and method, eloquence will avail him very little 
and theology not at all." Fosdick believes his technique 
works. "People have literally come up after the sermons not 
to offer some trivial complaint but to say, 'How did you 
know that I was facing that problem last week?', 'I think 
you understand my case. May I have a personal interview 
with you.' " The real test for any radio sermon should be 
"How many listeners are impelled to wish to see the preacher 

The method of the Master, measured in terms of our com- 
plex age, serves today as a model. He spoke to the people 
in their everyday language and made religion as plain and 
practical to them as farming and fishing. His sermons were 
always picturesque, besprinkled with humor, and made 
realistic by the use of the parable and illustrations, drawn 
from all sources. 

Such a method is best adapted to the condition and needs 
of the hearers whose attention and interest was at once cap- 
tured. This is precisely what radio sermons today demand. 
In the ancient days, the Pharisees and the scribes taught in 
a way that has small relation to human affairs and needs. 
"The fossilized ecclesiasts," says Dr. James H. Snowden, 
"were droning away over hairsplitting questions of ortho- 
doxy that were not of the least human interest or use. The 
simple, charming teachings of Jesus came like a fresh breeze. 
The people knew what he was talking about and were sur- 
prised that it took hold of them with such fascinating in- 
terest and power, exclaiming, 'A new teaching!' " 


How the Radio Preacher Can Lead 

There are few great radio preachers today who are out- 
standing prophets of this generation. Among the more dis- 
tinguished leaders are the Reverend Dr. Harry Emerson 
Fosdick, the Rev. William J. Finn, Rabbi Stephen J. Wise, 
and the Rev. Daniel F. Poling. 

The way lies ahead for improvement in microphone 
preaching, so that the personality of a great mind impresses 
itself on the listener with faith and understanding, with 
sincerity and depth of conviction, with liveliness of emotion 
that is in tune with common experience. 

Radio religion can never take the place of public worship. 
The words "synagogue" and "congregation" come from the 
Greek and Latin words meaning "assembly." The radio 
listener is external from the group that listens in the church. 
The radio listener is not subject to those same influences 
which may be possible in the House of God. A broadcast, 
talk, or sermon may serve as a signpost to point out the way 
to faith, but the minister's personal influence is wanting. 
"Preaching is not a mere verbal communication," said the 
Rev. James Gillis. "It is a ministry; but how can you minis- 
ter to a man when you don't see him and when he is lolling 
half-dressed on the couch smoking his pipe, his attention di- 
verted from your discourse now by the family chit-chat, and 
again by the alluring Sunday supplement?" 

The undeniable benefits of the radio ministry, however, 
are many. It has strengthened the spiritual teachings of the 
church. It has supplied religious services in localities where 
the churches were closed because of the depression. It has 
provided a spiritual anchor to great numbers not connected 
with any specific faith. It has increased religious tolerance. 
Its ministrations have come to invalids, shut-ins, and those 
in remote places who would otherwise lack the opportunity 
of partaking in religious worship. 



PROPAGANDA is as old as the ages. The new thing 
about it is the agency of broadcasting. Radio is the 
almost universal vehicle of politics, nationalism, business 
and trade, the world over. 

Propaganda defies exact definition. It is ideology, a prin- 
ciple, a mode of action. There is no morality in propaganda. 
The sole test is whether it succeeds. Propaganda is acting, 
the doing of things. Education is long range work, propa- 
ganda is immediate: Education is slower. 

Radio is believed to provide greater propaganda values 
than the movies or the printed page. Leaflets and printed 
matter may be showered on the people and never read. The 
spoken word is more effective than the printed word. A 
propagandist on the air rushes on, deals wholly with emo- 
tions, and stays away from cold facts as far as possible. 
Listeners are not trained to study the form of an address 
nor to analyze its separate elements. He cannot study the 
argument as from the printed page. His emotions are fused 
by the power of oratory. The listener cannot heckle a speaker 
nor talk back at him. He has the option of turning him 
off, but the effective speaker weaves a spell, slows down the 
thinking processes, and makes men and women behave like 

The persistent repetition of doctrine infiltrates swiftly 
everywhere. Governments and communities, through radio, 
crystallize opinion before the public has had a chance to 
rationalize the issues. 

Propaganda on the air is here to stay. National prepared- 
ness includes not only plans for battleships and aircraft but 



also super-power broadcasting stations that reach targets 
across the seas. Nations have turned to radio propaganda 
for the coordination of their activities both within and 
beyond their borders. Without radio the course of empire 
may be held in the balance. 

H. V. Kaltenborn once answered a hypothetical question 
about radio as an instrument of propaganda. Said the com- 
mentator: "If Ethiopia had been equipped with radio, Haile 
Selassie could have drawn his empire together; could have 
talked to all his different chieftains. Perhaps the outcome 
would have been different." 

Multi-Branched Radio Propaganda 

Little study has been given to the matter of classifying 
propaganda programs on the air. The following groups are 
merely suggestive and are not mutually exclusive: 

1. Promotion or publicity propaganda. Every hour on the 
hour, there is a specialized promotion on the air which 
brings the listeners the pet policies or special views of a wide 
variety of organizations. These include public service cor- 
porations, boards of commerce and trade, public and quasi- 
public institutions. Such propaganda bespeaks every variety 
of vested interest. Special relations counselors are employed 
to create the persuasive type of radio appeal. 

2. Civic propaganda. These appeals are general and em- 
phasize the advantages which come to the community 
through public action or civic enterprise. Thus the State 
of New York Milk Control Board uses the air in a health 
program designed to boost the sale of milk and help the 
farmer. Appeals may be made to civic, patriotic and com- 
munity pride and lead to some specific form of participation 
such as cooperating in the New York World's Fair. One 
typical example: In 1939 Carl Byoir made an appeal for the 
A & P stores in defense of the chain store system on the 


General Electric WGY (Schenectady) Farm Forum, frankly 
announcing himself as a paid propagandist. In every City 
Hall and State Capitol, propaganda is operated by every 
conceivable vested interest. 

3. Profit propaganda. Such programs are directed by 
business enterprises, organizations and individuals who hope 
to reap a profit directly or indirectly by a commodity or 
service offered for sale. Included in such programs are those 
designed to win markets and trade control. Special utility 
companies, organizations like the National Electric Light 
Association and the National Association of Manufacturers 
find radio the best medium for their special propaganda. 
They have ample funds to devote to radio which cannot 
be matched by the consumers' and workers' groups. In 1937, 
the NAM publicity fund grew to be over eight hundred 
thousand dollars. The money spent for propaganda included 
radio features such as "The American Family Robinson" 
heard over two hundred and seventy stations. The MMA 
spent over two million dollars in 1940 on public information 
for a study of text books throughout the nation so that the 
members might move against any that might be found 
prejudicial to our form of government. Vice-President Wal- 
lace said, when Secretary of Agriculture: "They (the busi- 
ness men) have been led by their plutogogues (propaganda 
men) to believe that government rules of the game should 
be loaded in their favor. 

Commercial propaganda is more of a science than ethical 
and political propaganda. Sponsors have become experts at 
selling goods over the air. They know the value of repeti- 
tion. They play on the snobbish instincts of humanity, 
emphasize the importance of buying to meet the demands 
of social conformity. They play on fears of every kind, 
fear of halitosis, fear of obesity, fear of financial loss, and 

Commercial propaganda is agreeable to the masses be- 


cause it encourages people to satisfy their cravings and 
offers them a possible escape from their physical pains and 
discomforts. When listeners are asked to buy luxuries or 
to choose between two brands of a necessary commodity, 
there may be nothing serious at stake. Danger may arise 
if the listener allows himself to be influenced by sales propa- 
ganda when physical cures are concerned. 

4. Friendship and peace propaganda. This is an institu- 
tionalized propaganda undertaken by some associations to 
create friendly relations and mutual understanding or to 
explain the causes of discord. The coat of arms of the British 
Broadcasting Corporation displays the idealistic slogan, 
"Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation." Under this classi- 
fication comes the exchange of programs of the British 
Broadcasting Corporation and those of the American net- 
works. Other types of friendship broadcasts are those that 
seek to lure the tourist and extend a sort of personalized 
welcome to the prospective traveler. Such programs play 
upon the imagination of the listener by means of enchanting 
songs, romantic tales, adventure dramatization and talks that 
extol scenic beauties and delightful living conditions. 

5. Reformist propaganda works for limited changes in the 
social order. It seeks primarily to modify conditions to con- 
form to a better standard of morals. Thus an attack may 
be made over the air on bad housing conditions, the abuse 
of WPA funds, neglect of education and the like. Reformist 
propaganda is concerned with bringing about some change 
in the existing political, economic or social structure. 

6. War propaganda. This is necessary in wartime to arouse 
and intensify animosity against the enemy and to attract 
mutual support. The national hatred is mobilized by pres- 
sure groups, and the enemy is represented as menacing, 
aggressive violators of moral and conventional standards. 
Even music is enlisted in the cause of war propaganda. 


Totalitarian leaders order only heroic and martial strains 
be played, no dance or comedy programs. 

7. Peace propaganda. Advocates for peace exercise power- 
ful radio propaganda campaigns. In the event of war 
they would probably be silenced. Network stations are 
not prone to refuse requests of organized peace societies 
for free time on the air. The National Peace Conference 
reports that during the first five months of 1937 local stations 
carried one thousand three hundred and eighty-six peace 
programs. Both NBC and CBS carried the regular peace 
broadcasts over the networks. From one hundred and fifty 
to two hundred local stations broadcast a weekly service for 
World Peaceways and the League of Nations Association. 

8. Revolutionary propaganda. New regimes are particu- 
larly dependent on the use of radio for the acquisition and 
consolidation of power. Radio as a medium for political 
and military propaganda is effective when one group within 
a country seizes control of a government from another group. 

The first goal of all revolutionists is to capture the radio 
station of the party in power. The Spanish revolutionists 
seized the throne and Alfonso's wireless station at the same 

In a recent address in Berlin Dr. Goebbels, Minister of 
Propaganda, frankly exposed the "capture of the wireless" 
in 1933 by the Nazis who had previously been vigorously 
excluded from its use. 

"When the Fiihrer was called to power in the midday 
hours of January 30, 1933," says Dr. Goebbels, "the historic 
fact was communicated to the German people by wireless. 
An historic event had occurred. A revolution had begun. 
Only a few hours later the revolutionary masses rolled 
through the streets of Berlin and passed through the Wil- 
helmstrasse before the Reich President and the Fiihrer. All 
Germany was in turmoil. Only Broadcasting House in the 
Masuren Allee lay still far from the noise of the city, with- 


out light, not, indeed, without staff, but without leaders. 
The latter, after closing down, had gone home in the accus- 
tomed belief that they had done their duty." 

And further: "At that point revolutionary National- 
Socialists, without office or permission, entered the Broad- 
casting House, loaded microphones and apparatus on to 
taxicabs, motored to the Reich Chancery, and from there 
enabled the German people to share through the ether in 
the capital's national upheaval. Broadcasting had become for 
the first time political." 

The political control of German broadcasting has re- 
mained complete. All radio transmitters are owned and 
operated by the German post-office, with programs supplied 
by the German Broadcasting Company, itself government- 
owned. From his Berlin office, the Minister of Propaganda 

In his autobiographical work, "The Struggle for Berlin," 
Goebbels coldly states: "Propaganda in itself has no funda- 
mental method. It has only one purpose, the conquest of 
the masses. Every means that serves this end is good." 

German propaganda includes the organization of the 
population into a listening machine. In 1935, the govern- 
ment issued millions of "Peoples Receivers," cheap receiving 
sets which the industry was compelled to build. A "Labor 
Front Receiver" was installed in factories and in business 
premises for collective use. Each of the thirty-nine Nazi 
party Gaue (regions) has a Gaufunkwart or district radio 
officer. The one thousand districts of Germany are each 
under the direction of a subordinate radio official. When the 
Berlin office makes a decree of community reception, this 
army of radio lieutenants gets busy and every factory, public 
square and school is provided with receivers and amplifiers. 
It is estimated that about three-quarters of the German 
people listen in. 


Government Propaganda 

The administration's use of radio for propaganda is a 
necessary part of any democratic system. Public questions 
must be presented to the people with information and argu- 
ment. The President and his Cabinet constantly use the air. 
The NRA was "sold" to the people by the aid of the loud- 
speaker in the home. Various government departments have 
exploited their achievements through dramatizations and 
addresses by key officials. The use of the networks is freely 
offered to members of Congress, to fortify administration 
appeal or to set in motion opposite points of view. 

The President's "fireside chats" are regarded as quasi- 
propaganda, quiet, amiable, and pervasive. Some publicists 
like George E. Sokolsky, believe that the President by the 
use of radio developed a mass pressure upon Congress, which 
made the seventy-fourth Congress a rubber stamp. Radio 
exerts its powerful pressure upon the public which in turn 
forces pressure upon Congress. 

It is difficult to determine whether government officials 
speak as private individuals or as servants of the State. 
Elected or appointed officials often step into the domain of 
propaganda. Critics of the administration may fight back 
with counter-propaganda, but this is only possible if they are 
granted access to the microphone. 

Serious measures were taken by the Federal Communica- 
tions Commission to expand radio programs directed from 
the United States to Latin America. The means were at 
hand. Four channels had been set aside for the use of the 
Americas by international agreement in 1931. It was not 
until February 19, 1938, however, that the hearing was held 
which allocated two of these short wave frequencies to the 
General Electric Company over Station 2WXAB, with 
powerful one hundred kw. broadcasts. The other short- 
wave frequencies were allocated to the Worldwide Broad- 


casting Corporation of Boston, whose Station WIXAL is 
also high powered. Rigid conditions were laid out for the 
use of newly allocated frequencies. Commercial and adver- 
tising announcements are completely banned. 

General Electric Company's station began its Latin 
American programs on March 4, 1938, the major portion 
of its broadcasts being in the Portuguese language. 

The programs of the World Broadcasting Corporation 
are directed to Latin America five times a week. It is a non- 
profit organization subsidized by a grant from the Rocke- 
feller Foundation and its charter indicates its altruism: "To 
produce and broadcast programs of a cultural, educational 
and artistic and spiritual nature and to arrange for the 
interchange of constructive radio programs throughout the 

The Latin American programs of the National Broadcast- 
ing Station and the Columbia Broadcasting System both 
operate under an experimental license. These experimental 
programs cost the companies over $100,000 yearly. The 
expense is charged off to prestige, public and patriotic 
service and good will in Washington. Besides there was 
always a hope that the FCC may toss a juicy plum into the 
lap of the networks by allowing short wave advertising. 

Frank E. Mason, vice president of the NBC, testified at 
the FCC investigation in 1938 that the networks' Latin 
American broadcasts exceeded those of other nations. In 
1938 they totaled sixty-three hours a week, compared with 
fifty-six for Germany, nine hours and fifty-five minutes for 
Italy and seven hours for Japan. 

The United States disavows propaganda by radio. The 
FCC would have all programs cultural and educational. 
Carleton Beals, however, finds our broadcasts larded with 
propaganda and a steady drone for the Hull reciprocity 
treatises. "Our broadcasts," he says, "even if truly educa- 
tional, inevitably become propaganda for a way of life, the 


American way of life. They seek a purpose to create friend- 
ship, to sell goods to bar other foreign competition." 

The danger is that the Latins in the long run may become 
inimical to our propaganda as we are to the foreign propa- 
ganda dinned in our ears. "For Latin America," warns Beals, 
"democracy is still a revolutionary concept, capable of tum- 
bling down governments. To advocate it is propaganda. It 
is propaganda, far more revolutionary there, far more an 
alien doctrine than either totalitarianism or communism." 

Shall the Government Step In? 

In the war of propaganda, fears grip the broadcasters that 
the Government will erect and maintain stations of its own. 
Many publicists urge that the Government take active 
measures to meet propaganda by propaganda. The efforts 
of private companies to cooperate with the government in 
sending of programs to South America is deemed com- 
mendable, but the government is put in the position of 
asking favors from the stations which owe their very exist- 
ence to its licensing. 

What the networks fear most is the first opening wedge 
into the system of private control of broadcasting. Bills for 
the establishment of government stations have been intro- 
duced into Congress. One of these measures directed the 
Secretary of the Navy to construct a government radio sta- 
tion at Washington with the Commissioner of Education in 
charge of programs. Congressman Celler in 1937 urged the 
passage of his bill which provided that a government station 
be designed for national and Pan-American service, for the 
use of the President, members of the Cabinet, bureaus and 
departments, and for the interpretation of the various gov- 
ernmental activities by bureaus and departments. 

The handwriting of the government is not yet on the wall, 
but cold chills run down the spine of private stations. They 


paint a sad picture of the mess we will get into when 
broadcasting at Washington becomes the tool of politics. 
There are hosts of supporters for a government station who 
claim that a government station in reserve, would take the 
haughtiness out of those private broadcasters who show the 
slightest sign of discriminating against the party in power. 

Sponsor Propaganda 

Propaganda has crept into commercial programs with 
alarming frequency. The policy of the networks, it is true, 
is not to sell time for propaganda of any sort. Sponsor prop- 
aganda is voiced by a spokesman who may be a newspaper- 
man, an ex-minister, a news commentator, a public relations 
counsel a plutogogue as Prof. T. V. Smith of the Univer- 
sity of Chicago chose to call the hired voice. 

The crowning example of suave and subtle propaganda 
is the Ford Sunday Hour. William A. Cameron, one time 
editor of the Dearborn "Independent," takes to the air be- 
tween symphony numbers to bespeak the mind of Henry 

Advertising is the oldest form of propaganda. It has de- 
veloped concurrently with the rise of the press and the 
expansion of commerce, but the methods of propaganda 
are employed in other fields today, especially in politics. The 
devices are borrowed from commercial advertising. The" 
newspaper advertisement, the placard, the demonstration, 
the political speech with all the new methods of advertising, 
are all employed to persuade the consumer to buy new 
goods or services which have been offered to him. 

On the NBC network, the "Voice of General Motors" 
has been heard not only extolling automobiles, but ven- 
turing forth into matters of employment, wage levels, and 
the "American system." On the CBS network, the Chase Na- 
tional Bank, cooperated with forty-five affiliated financial 


institutions, provided a business forum enlivened with 
orchestral music. 

John T. Flynn in the Town Meeting of the Air in April, 
1938, described the insidious effect of such programs in this 
wise: "On Sunday evening the family is gathered in the 
living room when into their midst float the strains of music 
from a great symphony orchestra . . . then as the strains 
of some well-loved old song fade from the air and the family 
sits around, thoroughly softened up, there floats into the 
room and into the unguarded chambers of their minds 
the voice of the propagandist. For five or ten minutes the 
planned infection flows into the monster. It tells of the 
romantic sage of business, the great achievements, the mas- 
sive wisdom, the matchless courage, the civilizing alchemy 
of the great business man as distinguished from the selfish 
and narrow ignorance and wickedness of the Government 
the great-souled business leader compared with the small- 
minded and vicious senator." 

Let us examine a typical passage from a recent "sermon- 
ette" of William A. Cameron. In reviewing the historical 
progression of America's fears, Cameron said: 

"The uncurbed mobs, the wild-cat money, the plagues, 
the sectional divisions, all have passed away. They were 
temporal. The schools, inventions, liberties, the social prog- 
ress have remained, they are spiritual. And that is what is 
occurring today if we had eyes to see. The best is yet to be, 
the last for which the first was made. Here is the factual 
foundation of our faith in the ever-dawning future." 

The average listener will not submit such utterances to 
analysis. He will be overcome by generalities. The thinking 
person will closely evaluate. He will want a definition of 
such lofty words as "liberties," "social progress," "spiritual." 
The underfed and unemployed will hardly share Cameron's 
concept of "our faith in the ever-dawning future." 

John Vernon in New Masses has noted that Cameron 


never comes out openly against anything but takes many a 
backhanded slap at the present administration. 'Tor in- 
stance," says Vernon, "on March 13^ 1938, Cameron 
asserted 'Leg irons must be taken off the nation's productive 
forces.' In other words let's take the country out of the 
hands of Washington and entrust it once more to the tender 
mercies of the bankers." 

Belligerent Short Waves 

The dream of radio as a powerful force for international 
good will is engraved on the legend over the portals of the 
British Broadcasting Corporation: "Nation Shall Speak 
Peace Unto Nation." Yet the "Radio War" goes on inces- 
santly, day and night. Impartial observers estimate that more 
than half the programs sent out by the totalitarian states are 
open or veiled propaganda. The air is belligerent with 
polyglot communication. 

The entrance of the United States into Latin American 
broadcasting can be traced to radio propaganda by foreign 
countries. Italy has consistently used the radio to sway the 
sentiment of the Moslem world of North Africa, Egypt, 
Arabia, Transjordania, Iraq and Palestine. Broadcasts came 
in Arabic from the Bari station. Their purpose was to under- 
mine Britain's prestige and influence among millions of 
Moslems who had hitherto looked upon the King of 
England as the defender of the faith. Mussolini boldly pro- 
claimed himself as the Protector of Islam. Radio "news" 
was invented, falsely accusing the British of using poison gas 
on the Arabs. 

Britain sprang to its own defense with a radio counter- 
offensive. A new language policy was instituted. Previous to 
1937 the British had insisted on talking to the world in 
English. Close study was given to the problem by the Ulls- 
water Committee which reported that "in the interest of 


the British prestige and influence in world affairs, we think 
that the appropriate use of language other than English 
should be encouraged." And so on March 15, 1937, the 
British put into practice the propaganda language policy of 
European states. "Say it in the language of the country you 
are aiming at." The forty million inhabitants of Brazil were 
regaled in Portuguese and the other forty-five million in- 
habitants of South America in Spanish. Special announcers 
handled the programs in Arabic to the fourteen million 
Moslems of the Near East. 

The British, learning from experience, sought to make 
their programs attractive. Italy's crooner called Abdul Wahab 
held public fancy as the Bing Crosby of the East. It was 
necessary to employ showmanship and match him with a 
Picadilly dance band and various Moslem singers. As an 
escape from the usual practice, the British decided to intro- 
duce a straight news service in several languages. 

British officials lean to the opinion that programs aimed 
directly at propaganda defeat their own purpose. A recent 
report to the International Broadcasting Council at Geneva 
frankly admits: "The reactions of the listener to what he 
suspects to be propaganda or sectarian views are not only 
negative, but fundamentally detrimental to the cause to 
which it is desired to attract or force his opinion." 

Italy and Germany were the first to beam their short 
waves to South America in order to "entertain" the re- 
publics. The German strategy is to arrange with the South 
American nations to intercept the short waves rebroadcast 
so that the program comes over the local station loud and 
distinct. Carlton Beale in "The Coming Struggle for Latin 
America" makes the astounding revelation about ninety per 
cent of Guatemala's programs are Berlin broadcasts. Ger- 
many, Italy, and Japan followed up its broadcasts with offers 
of free books, pamphlets, news service, radio sets, actors 
and exchange professors. German directional transmitters in 


operation since 1934 have the greatest clarity of reception 
and represent most advanced technical improvement. 

The purpose of these broadcasts is an open secret. Their 
primary aim is to prove that republics are decadent and that 
society is depending on the new totalitarian order for its 
salvation. The lure of trade and security is held out with 
"Sure Fire" programs that suit the taste of the South Ameri- 
can Republics. As a groundwork for the sale of goods, the 
Germans first sell ideas to Latin Americans. The German 
voice solemnly declares that Germany leads the world in 
cultural and industrial achievements. 

Propaganda boldly emphasizes the thesis that "Democratic 
nations are crumbling." Nazism is the salvation of the 
world. America is honeycombed with strikes. We have no 
strikes in Germany. If you order goods from us you will not 
only get a superior product but you will be sure to get them. 
Take no chances." 

In addition, German propaganda is designed to reach 
German-speaking people within foreign territory. Germans 
in the United States and Latin America are cajoled to or- 
ganize to perpetuate the Nazi creed. Contact is made with 
the foreign representatives of the Fiihrer in each country. 

Wooing Latin America 

Our country has felt uneasy about the invasion of Ger- 
many in the Western Hemisphere. To this end our enormous 
defense program has been instituted. The Germans believe 
that the Monroe Doctrine is just a paper barricade against 
radio programs that bounce through the loud speaker with 
seductive music. 

How to Be a Radio Propagandist 

Propaganda on the air is not an exact science and so the 
propagandist is not always sure that he is following the right 


path. However, experience has evolved certain new radio 
techniques. The subject is being delved into by new various 

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis in New York City 
under the direction of Prof. Clyde R. Miller has made clear 
many of the major devices of radio propaganda. We select 
from radio's bag of tricks a few of the more widely used 
methods, some of them morally indefensible. 

1. Take advantage of the psychological principle that 
people in the mass are poor judges of their own interests. 
They are ready to flitter from one proposition to another 
without reasoning. Radio is seductive. It can hold out prom- 
ise to lure men and women with a siren song. On the promise 
of a new security they are tempted to fling away the old to 
which they have clung with fears. For quick results, search 
for signs of preferences of your listeners which do not 
require deliberation. Aldous Huxley thus analyzes the weak- 
ness of men: "Dictatorial propaganda, which is always 
nationalistic, or revolutionary propaganda, is acceptable 
because it encourages men and women to give free rein to 
their pride, vanity and other egotistical tendencies and 
because it provides them with psychological devices for 
overcoming their sense of inferiority." 

2. Attach to your appeal some slogan which in words is 
equivalent to a goal symbol. The slogan becomes indelibly 
written on the mind. The Spanish Loyalist, "La Pasionaria," 
during the siege of Madrid, brought in thousands of volun- 
teers with her plea, "Better to die on one's feet than live 
on one's knees." 

3. Repetition is the mother of success. Keep on repeating 
your slogan or goal symbol. This will not only realign your 
listeners to a new scheme of behavior but will create in them 
a zeal that is infectious. Dr. Goebbels lays down this for- 
mula: "The intellectuals say that the more often a theme 
is repeated the less interested the people. This is not true. 


When I possess the talent to find even more Draconic and 
sharper arguments, then the public will not lose interest. On 
the contrary, the interest will increase." 

4. Broadcast news in the language of the country to which 
your short waves are directed. Germany uses a cultured 
Oxford voice to get its point across. Remember that Italy 
broadcasts regularly in fifteen languages including Hin- 
dustani, Arabic, Portuguese, Hungarian and Japanese. 

5. Broadcast lessons in your native language to the coun- 
try to which your appeal is directed. Brazil can tune in on 
lessons in the Italian language coming from Rome; and on 
German lessons from Berlin. 

6. Minimize. Exaggerate. Interpret a local strike in the 
United States as a symbol of a major revolution; the draining 
of a swamp is evidence of the "restoration of the grandeur 
of the Roman Empire." 

7. Make your news broadcasts misleading, by sending 
them out incomplete and with omissions. Newpapers in 
Latin America which cannot afford the expensive wire 
service regularly pick up German and Italian broadcasts of 
the news free. Hence it is important to add Hitler's sauce 
and Mussolini's spice to the tidbits that are offered. There 
is no way to stop the static from "frying" the waves unless 
the transmitter is destroyed. 

8. Attack the middle from both ends at the same time. 
The journalist, Chester T. Crowell, in a survey of air 
propaganda for Collier's Weekly, gives this example: "The 
German Broadcast represents Uncle Sam as a raging and 
dangerous imperialist with sinister purposes toward Latin 
America but he is also a very sick man with the virus of 
Russian Communism in his veins and sometimes he is suf- 
fering from incipient death." 

9. Blanket foreign broadcasts that smack of counter- 
propaganda. Both the Russians and the Germans delight in 
this game. Broadcasts from Moscow in the German language 


are blotted out by Berlin, and Russia does the same to pro- 
grams in Russian coming from Berlin. Germany has been 
accused of putting the damper on American programs 
directed to Latin America. 

A German trick is to fudge a bit toward the frequency 
of an English channel, just as an English news broadcast is 
coming to a close, and pick up where the Englishman stops. 
The voice of the German broadcaster will be as English as 
that of the original speaker; consequently the listener might 
readily assume that he was still listening to Daventry. 

10. Mobilize national hatreds for war propaganda. This 
is the "name-calling" device which appeals to hates and 
fear. Represent the enemy, actual or menacing, as a mur- 
derous aggressor, a violator of humanity and international 
morals. Maintain this hostility by an assurance of ultimate 
victory and represent all of your allies strenuously aiding 
in your course and protecting common values. This will help 
in preserving friendly relations and will keep the fire of zeal 
burning in those countries that lend a helping hand. Broad- 
casting is often the one means of the mobilization of senti- 
ment that is cheaper than bribery, violence or other control 
techniques. War propaganda calls for cooperation of the 
whole population as a military unit in action. Radio appeals 
along these lines emphasize the need for the physical and 
moral support of the masses for national self-preservation. 

11. Make use of the "card-stacking" device of Dr. Goeb- 
bels which makes it impossible to have anything said over 
the air except what the Government wishes to have said. 

12. Make use of the "plain folks" strategy. Hitler and the 
Nazi leaders are represented as "men of the people" and the 
Nazi ideals are portrayed as the salvation of the masses. 

13. Employ the "testimonial" subterfuge. Nothing is right 
which Hitler does not approve and whatever he sanctions 
cannot be wrong. 

14. At the proper moment, resort to the "transfer trick" 


to confer reverence and glorify esteem upon the leader of 
your principles. Thus Hitler, the former sign-painter, is the 
"man sent from Heaven." 

15. Appeal to the historic traditions and the racial purity 
of your people. Denounce the former government as insti- 
tuted by communists, radicals and Jews. 

It is thus seen that the task of the radio propagandist 
is to achieve a goal by fair means or foul. The goal need not 
immediately be exposed. The unchanging aim of such propa- 
ganda is to intensify attitudes favorable to his purpose, 
to reverse attitudes, to win the indifferent or at least to 
prevent a group or section from breaking out in antagonism. 
This is the point where the creative genius of the radio 
propagandist is tested. He must be a producer in the strictest 
sense and be able to create those programs that will best 
accomplish his ends. 

The Battle for Thought Control 

The Japanese prefer to call their combination of censor- 
ship and propaganda "thought control." Because radio 
propaganda works adroitly on human nature in the raw, it 
has become an important agency in thought control of whole 
populations. The love of power, according to Bertram Rus- 
sell, is a normal part of human nature responsible for this 
inordinate use of propaganda. 

Dr. Goebbels holds the thinking capacity of the average 
man in contempt. He justifies any means to the end: "The 
people think primitively. The intelligence is subject to a 
thousand temptations, but the heart beats with its steady 
beat. The ordinary man hates nothing more than two sided- 
ness when called upon to consider this as well as that. The 
masses think simply and primitively. They love to generalize 
complicated situations and from their generalizations to 
draw clear and uncompromising conclusions." 


Can this virus of radio propaganda be counteracted? 
Liberal thinkers believe that youth should be trained in 
propaganda-analysis so that they will not succumb to the first 
blasts of the radio orator. 

Several courses in propaganda have been introduced ex- 
perimentally in twenty-five high schools of New York. The 
subject is inter-related to civics and the social studies take 
this approach: Examples of propaganda, both foreign and 
domestic, are brought into the classroom, Radio speeches, 
newspaper editorials, current motion pictures, are dissected 
under the glare of "truth and accuracy." Students are taught 
to search for motives at every step. 

At Evander Childs High School in New York City, the 
study of propaganda analysis has been dramatized to capture 
the interests of the youth. A play entitled "Snow White and 
the Seven Propaganda Devices," presented by the pupils, 
challenged all types of propaganda. Beautiful Snow White 
(Gullible Public) is unable to make up her mind about the 
Neutrality Act. Pulling her in every direction are the seven 
little dwarfs of propaganda Glittering Generalities, Band- 
wagon Trick, Transfer Device, Testimonial Trick, Plain 
Folks, Name Calling, and Card Stacking. After a severe 
buffeting, Snow White is saved from utter destruction by the 
charming Prince (Critical Thinking). 

As they come upon the scene, the seven Propaganda De- 
vices chant in unison: 

"Oh, we are the seven devices, 

We turn up in time of crisis; 

We play upon your feeling, 

We set your brain a-reeling. 

We are seven active contrabanders, 

We are seven clever propaganders." 

Then the master propaganda device of all Name Calling 
sings suggestively: 


"Of course when problems are appalling 
We employ device name-calling. 
If you don't know how to reason why, 
Just tack a label on the other guy." 

Professor Clyde R. Miller, Director of the Institute for 
Propaganda Analysis, believes that there may be an answer 
in this method: By having people approach controversial 
problems not as antagonists or protagonists but as students 
of the propaganda which flows from the conflicts these prob- 
lems represent. It must be remembered that propaganda 
is nothing more than the opinions and actions of special 
individual groups which affirm opinions and notions of other 
individuals and groups. 

A student may ask the following: (i) What does the state- 
ment say? (2) What does it mean? (3) Who says it? (4) What 
are his interests? (5) Why does he say it? (6) Does the channel 
through which it appears, newspaper, newsreel, radio, give 
it added emphasis or does it distort itself by color or censor- 
ship? (7) Which ones do I believe? (8) Why do I believe 

In brief students approach the controversy from the scien- 
tific angle, they strain out emotions, they will get the facts 
in pretty much the same fashion as a scientist gets at facts. 
By this method, we can check against our own prejudices, 
biases, convictions, ideals, as well as those of others. 

Many point to the success of consumers' organizations 
educating the public to detect fraudulent commercial claims. 
When people discover the means by which they have been 
duped, they are likely to be on their guard. In the same way, 
it is possible to teach people to be on their guard about the 
motives and methods of those who would control their 

The Group Leaders Guide to Propaganda Analysis is an 
experimental study project prepared by the Institute of 


Propaganda Analysis. Courses in propaganda analysis have 
been extended experimentally to five hundred and fifty 
schools and colleges throughout the country. 

Dr. James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard Univer- 
sity, speaking on "Defenses Against Propaganda," over CBS, 

"By considering the pros and cons of historic debates of 
previous generations, a student can exercise his own judg- 
ment on matters of political importance relatively unham- 
pered by the propagandist. Every citizen should be taught 
fundamental principles of American constitutional govern- 
ment. Youth should be made acquainted with the psychology 
of public opinion and the methods of manipulating this 
opinion commonly employed. There should be instilled in 
him the importance of due process of law and the meaning 
of justice and liberty under the American constitution. These 
broad principles are to be taught by social, scientific, and 
literary history of this country, as well as a mature study of 
the historical problems of the past." 

Members of the Society for the Psychological Study of 
Social Issues meeting in Berkeley in 1939, decided to analyze 
war propaganda in the hope of persuading Americans to 
weigh facts. Dean Carl Ackerman of the Columbia School 
of Journalism holds the same point of view. "The People of 
the country are not boobs," he declared with fervor. "They 
have sound common sense and are ready to reach honest 
American conclusions after they have listened to or read 
news dispatches and comments, considered facts and applied 
discrimination of judgment to the facts and opinions as 
presented by the different sides of the European war." 

Professor Robert K. Spear of New York University only 
recently advised setting up in each high school and college 
"a unit of instruction on propaganda analysis to provide 
some means for a cool evaluation of the propaganda playing 
upon our prejudices, loyalties and free disquisition." Train- 


ing in listening and rapid analysis of the substance of the 
speech and the style of oratory should be part of the cur- 
riculum. In addition speeches given over the air as they 
appear in print should be subjected to a more careful 
analysis for logical content and proof. The cold print will 
dissociate facts and logic from vocal tricks and hysterical 

As a second means of heightening resistance to propa- 
ganda, Aldous Huxley suggests that people be trained to 
subject the devices of the propagandist to critical analysis, 
and to examine all metaphors, personifications, and abstrac- 
tions to the most searching analysis. Empty words will not 
fool the listener so easily because they will be instantly 
translated into the real thing. Noble verbiage will not get 
by so easily. 

The politician, the churchman, the statesman, the dictator, 
will not indulge in flights of hokum when he is made to 
realize that listeners will not accept them unless they make 
their meanings clear by the use of concrete terms. The 
tendency to be tyrannized by exalted words will remain one 
of the anomalies of human nature. 

Stuart Chase, in the Tyranny of Language, made it plain 
that words can have meaning only in specific context, only 
by limited definition or in relation to immediate referents. 
The trick of the propagandist is to use abstractions and per- 
sonifications and a lot of meaningless generalizations. 

As an example, the economist analyzes such lofty plati- 
tudes as this, uttered by Goebbels: "The Aryan Fatherland, 
which has nursed the souls of heroes, calls upon you for the 
supreme sacrifice . . . which will echo forever down the 
corridors of history." 

The same, subjected to Chase's semantic translation, is 
exposed as nonsense: "Blab . . . blab . . . has nursed the 
blab of blabs, calls upon you for the blab-blab . . . which 


will echo down the blabs of blab." For the effectiveness of 
this style try it on yourself. 

Thirdly, as part of the education against propaganda, 
the listener must be taught to dissociate the idea intended 
from all slogans and catch-words. Radio has a way of fasten- 
ing a slogan in the ears of the public. Once the slogan is 
ripped off the argument, facts become more patent, and 
reason instead of fancy and passion rule. 

Some one has suggested that if radio propaganda were 
seeking a slogan of its own it might choose, "Don't think! 
Listen, Believe." 

The Voice of Propaganda 

The propagandist is often the perfect trickster in the use 
of the voice. Experience teaches the speaker just what vocal 
effects bring the desired responses. Hitler had seventeen 
years of speechifying behind him before he attained his high 
post. The future was to be devoted to the time-tried tricks 
he had learned during his kampf. Dr. Goebbels has more 
faith in the superiority of the spoken word over all forms 
of propaganda. 

A study of the propagandist should include his system of 
rhetoric and management of the voice. The propagandist is 
prone to indulge in endless repetitions and sweeping gen- 
eralizations. Arguments are clinched by platitudes and the 
rhetorical question frequently indulged. 

The agitator over the air must give evidence of strength 
and confidence by strength and confidence in voice. He is a 
master of exhibitionism in voice and plays at theatrical 
changes to achieve results. He even weeps. "We can always 
get Adolph to weep," Goering was supposed to have said 
about the Feuhrer. 

The propagandist gathers vocal momentum from phrase 
to phrase. The voice surges to emotional heights. A series 


of climaxes marks his appeal. The ending is often a scream 
of defiance. Hitler's vocal cords break under the strain of 
his "gutteral thunder." As the tumult of words tumble from 
his lips, the voice ends in the frenzied shriek, "Heil Deutsch- 
land!" or "Sieg! Sieg!" 

The quiet and reflective type of orator is least effective 
as a propagandist. The mob is more easily affected by a 
display of emotionalism evidenced by dynamic changes in 
pitch and volume and qualities of voice that echo the strong- 
est inner feeling of anger, courage, revenge, sorrow and the 
like. The voice of a radio propagandist should seem inspired. 
The listener is whipped into line by appeal to the crudest 
emotions and common hatreds. 

Huey Long indulged in crude shouting when he promised 
salvation for all on the "share the wealth" plan, but he had 
that colloquial touch which brought the mob within his 
fold. Father Coughlin plays on the entire gamut of his vocal 
gifts but his flights of oratory betray him as a flamboyant 
demagogue rather than a thinker. 

The Radio Newspaper 

Time was before the printed word, when news spread 
only through gossip. The age of oral communication has 
returned in the form which H. V. Kaltenborn has called the 
"Fifth Estate." Millions today would rather get the news 
through the ear than through the eye. 

Spot news was once the monopoly of the daily press. The 
swift progress of radio in the dissemination of the news 
forced the press to yield the crown. The birth of spot broad- 
cast began with the election returns of the Harding cam- 
paign of 1920. For over ten years after that, radio stations 
freely helped themselves to the news. As soon as it appeared 
in print, they passed it on over the air. The common prac- 


tice was to sell news programs to advertisers of soaps, laxa- 
tives, depilatories and every variety of produce. 

Two influences brought about the battle of the Press with 
the Fifth Estate. First came the depression of 1929. Adver- 
tising revenues of newspapers suddenly dropped to low 
levels while radio, by contrast, was waxing fat on profits. 
Secondly, radio had created the news commentator whose 
stylized news reports captured an enormous audience avid 
for the news. 

The newspaper looked with alarm at this invasion of their 
property rights. The situation demanded a restraining hand. 
There is an absurd monotony in the oral presentation of 
news. Major events as well as trivialities in the news are 
treated on the same level. 

The dispatches and commentaries during the European 
War crisis proved the whetted eagerness of the public to 
read the printed statement of the news. There is a class of 
listeners that does not fully believe the news until it has 
been set up in print. This may explain why many listeners 
write in for a printed copy of a speech or report. 

In the early days the commentator loomed up as a dan- 
gerous enemy of the Press. The cry arose that commentators 
were filching the news. A few cents dropped on the news 
stands and they could walk away with the latest editions 
and the cream of the news. They had developed the art of 
emphasizing the human side of the news; they knew how to 
condense the news to fit time allowance; they could stylize 
ideas in impressionable language, more interesting than 
the printed page. And then there was the voice to conjure 
with. The speaking of the news brought not only informa- 
tion but entertainment to a new audience, people remote 
from centers of population, the blind, the illiterate, and 
half-illiterate, and those more ear-minded than eye-minded. 

The Press fired its big guns in 1931. The Federal Courts 
were invoked to establish a property right in the news col- 


lected by the newspapers. Newspapers as a tactical measure 
clamped the lid on all radio publicity and refused to publish 
listings unless paid for at space rates. 

The Press, however, had reckoned without its public. 
Circulation dwindled when readers stopped buying news- 
papers which did not include radio programs. The Press 
capitulated and restored listings. This was merely a tem- 
porary truce for the battle was renewed in 1933 when the 
American Newspaper Publishers Association issued the edict 
which forbade the broadcasting of news unless the stations 
did their own news-gathering. Radio felt the stab but did 
not surrender meekly. The public appetite and clamor for 
news had to be appeased. Some of the stations created their 
own news staff, others obtained or bought the news from the 
Associated Press, the United Press or the Hearst services. 
The publishers at once brought pressure to bear, and the 
AP left radio flat. The UP likewise soon reneged. 

The networks were then left to their own devices. In the 
summer of 1933, CBS organized its own news agency, the 
Columbia News Service. It set up bureaus in key cities here 
and abroad and contracted for foreign news from a British 
agency. The service was beginning to thrive on the revenue 
from the commercial sponsorship of such news when dis- 
sension broke out in radio's ranks. The NBC chain had no 
newsgathering bureau of its own. Instead of striking out 
boldly in competition, it was inclined to make terms with 
the publishers. 

A general fear suddenly struck the networks. The press 
might, like some monster, retaliate and lend its powerful 
influence for government ownership, and that would be the 
end of them all. A variety of other reasons led to the death 
knell of the Columbia News Service. During 1941, the radio 
press rallied to the cause of the national emergency. At any 
moment its powers may be taken over by the Government 
and its franchise forfeited in the public interest. 


Birth of the Press Radio Bureau 

The two networks and the press associations finally agreed 
to cooperate. The result was a truce signed in 1934 and the 
creation of the Press Radio Bureau. Upon the council board 
of this Bureau were to sit the representatives of the United 
Press, the Associated Press, and the International News 

Competition, however, was not so easily stifled. Over four 
hundred independent stations were not bound by the Press- 
Radio agreement. Up in New England, the Yankee network, 
a group of nine important radio stations, took up the cudgels 
for the public, and established its own newsgathering service. 

Quietly, too, another newsgathering bureau was planning 
to take the helm. It threatened to set up a sort of "Associated 
Press of the Air." This was the Transradio Press, Inc., which 
was actually ready to begin business one week before the 
Press Radio agreement went into effect. The editor, Herbert 
S. Moore, now thirty-three, had been associated with UP, 
and sought to build up an independent news service, free 
from restrictions for commercial purposes. Transradio began 
with the principle that newscasting should not be a mere 
rehash of stale items listeners had already read in the papers. 
It sought to present accurate spot news in a concise, col- 
loquial, yet dramatic manner. 

Moore established the policy that radio must tell the story 
in the "way a man would break the news to his wife that 
his boss had given him a raise." It managed to be first on 
the air with flash news of major importance, such as the 
Hauptmann verdict. Within a year Transradio news was 
broadcast over more than ninety stations. Today Transradio 
goes by teletype and radio telegraph to two hundred and 
ninety stations and boasts of an unusual number of "beats." 

The Press and Radio Bureau has been attacked from many 


angles and at present the opposition in a few major indict- 

1. The Bureau has set itself up as a sort of general pro- 
tecting agency for the broadcasters when it has no such right. 
Edward H. Harris, former Chairman of the Radio Com- 
mittee of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, 
denied any station had the right to establish its own press 
bureaus. "No agency directly or indirectly under govern- 
ment license should function as a newsgathering organiza- 

2. The system establishes a personal censorship over the 
news, since representatives of the press alone determine 
what news should be broadcast and what news should be 
omitted, and how the news should be written. Ironically 
enough, the Bureau claims that such news is furnished free 
to the broadcasters as a public service. 

3. The Bureau robs the public of adequate treatment of 
the news. Its first regulations limited the broadcasts to two 
five-minute periods during each twenty-four hours and con- 
fined the news reports to a maximum of fifteen hundred 
words. In addition, the time during which these five-minute 
reports might be broadcast was so fixed that the news 
reached the listener after it had been printed in the news- 
papers. "For further details see your daily newspaper" be- 
came the slogan for news that was often stale. 

4. Press associations have destroyed public interest in the 
radio press by the manner of treating the news. Vital hap- 
penings of the day are reduced to sketchy statements, written 
in a style often weak and uninspiring. A consistent effort is 
made to make it appear that radio is but a beggarly substi- 
tute for the newspaper. The presentation of facts does not 
mean a bald, commonplace style, even though Radio de- 
mands condensation. The making of such reports should 
command the attention of writers skilled in the oral graces 


of English and unhampered by too stringent external control 
on their words. 

5. Press bulletins as they reach the broadcasting stations 
are naturally stereotyped in form since they are meant 
for common consumption all over the country. There is an 
absurd monotony in the oral presentation of the news. 
There is also a gruesomeness in details of crimes and acci- 
dents such as the description of mutilated bodies or unusual 
methods of physical violence. The reader, ravenous for these 
details, can find them with illustrations in his newspaper, 
or he may skip them entirely. 

Without giving undue exaggeration to the news, it is 
possible to lend color and variety to the reading of the news. 
What news reporting on the air needs today is something of 
the spontaneity and liveliness that characterize the com- 

The British news-caster reads more deliberately, in 
marked contrast to the American style of delivery. He pauses 
to indicate any change of topic from general news to 
sports results and from sport to the price of tin in the Straits 

"We don't believe in the golden voice," explains W. M. 
Shewen, the BBC's senior announcer of programs broadcast 
to the British Empire on short wave, whose voice is heard 
by many American radio fans. 

These bulletins are handed over to an announcer to read. 
He can play the news up or down just as the typographical 
spread. In the olden days the airing of a press bulletin by 
Graham McNamee tingled with the tenseness and excite- 
ment of the city room. There was a glow to his voice and he 
made you see an event in larger proportions. The reader of 
news bulletins is confined to an agreeable reading of his 
script. Whether it be catastrophe or romance, political dis- 
ruption or national revolution, triumphal flight of aeroplane 
or break of stock exchange, the announcer is a convention- 


alized reader, the very phraseology of his script is processed. 
A John Barrymore, if handed a script of this sort, could do 
justice to it in terms of emotion, but let the announcer try 
it and he would be fired the next minute! 

In 1938 the French Government decreed that news pro- 
grams be reduced from ninety to fifteen minutes a day on 
both government- and radio-owned stations, on the plea of 
the newspapers that they could not stand the radio com- 

Competition or Cooperation? 

The difficulties between radio and the press appeared to 
be smoothed out, but actually they have grown more com- 
plex. Both are slumbering giants, ready to get after each 
other. In a special sense they are not truly antagonistic. 
Radio and the Press each has its own distinct place in the 
spreading of the news. The line of demarcation is indeed 
well marked. Wickham Steed maintains that "broadcasting 
may get its blows in first, and if the blow is shrewd and 
true it will command increasing confidence." He continues: 
"But newspapers can strengthen and deepen the impression 
made by the spoken word if the news they give is equally 
true and straight, and if their comments upon it are such as 
commend themselves to listeners who may have reflected 
overnight upon what they have heard before reading inter- 
pretations of it the next morning." 

The newspaper can cover reams in its detailed reports; 
radio is forced to treat the news briefly. The newspaper will 
always retain its function as a depository of the news even 
after spot news has lost its pulling power. The news which 
reaches us out of the loudspeaker is ephemeral and of no 
use for reference. There must be a special reason why a 
man would want to read a speech of the president after he 
had heard it on the air. The radio dispatches and com- 
mentaries during the European war crisis in 1938 proved 


the public's eagerness to read the printed statement of the 
news keener than ever. This may explain why many listeners 
write for the offered copy of a speech or report. The printed 
matter is a safer guide than the ear, for the mind in reading 
has a chance to ponder over the news. 

Certain events grip the mind while they are happening 
and are best described over the air. These include sports, 
races, celebrations, speeches, civic ceremonies and the like. 
In this respect, radio is a neutral and unbiased news trans- 
mitting agency. The newspaper retains for itself its right as 
a protagonist as well as a disseminator of the news. 

The principal objection to the joint control by press and 
radio is the fear that it is not sound policy to give a single 
agency control of the two means of reaching the mind of 
the American public. The danger lies in a possible con- 
spiracy of press and radio to control the news and so control 
public thinking. 

A monopolistic invasion of journalism would be a mighty 
wedge to totalitarian mass thinking. The surest guarantee 
of free speech lies in competition between the newspapers. 
Perhaps no one has put the matter more sanely than Sir 
Wickham Steed, the British journalist: 

"In a word, the contest between broadcasting and the 
press needs to be judged from the standpoint of what is 
most conducive to public welfare and to the safeguarding 
of that freedom of public opinion which is a condition of 
every true civilization. Should broadcasting ever become 
an agency for the dissemination of one set of ideas to the 
exclusion of others, should any official or semi-official taint 
permanently disfigure it, or should it lend itself to other 
propaganda than that of making known from day to day, 
facts and views which the nation ought to know, it would 
in turn be required to be opposed, criticized and even de- 
nounced; and in opposing, criticizing or denouncing it, 
dependent newspapers would render a public service." 


The Future of the Radio Press 

What does the future hold for the radio press? 

Imminent developments in televison and facsimile, it is 
predicted, will make it possible for country newspapers to 
operate their own facsimile broadcasting stations using low- 
power ultra-high-frequency transmitters. Silas Brent en- 
visages impending changes: "When one can see news happen 
while listening to it, the newspaper, as such will receive its 
coup de grace. One trembles to think what will become of 
the newspapers, so far as their present capacities and appeals 
are concerned, when this time arrives. 

"I believe the daily will go by the board and that we will 
have weeklies blessed with some of the qualities of the 'Man- 
chester Guardian,' yet containing summaries of important 
happenings with documentary material, with interpretations 
of political, economic and social events, with fewer pages 
devoted to the comics and advice to the lovelorn. In this 
way, the ill wind of radio may blow the press some benefit." 

Publicists are naturally impatient with predictions. H. 
V. Kaltenborn would not venture a statement until he had 
looked in on the television of George VTs coronation. 
"Television is so near that it is high time to give it a little 
thought in connection with the news." 

Both radio and the press live in glass houses. The press 
supplies the readers with whatever their owners think they 
have the right to lay before them, and radio is equally guilty 
of its share in propagandizing. This was the thesis of a 
vitriolic debate between Secretary Harold L. Ickes and 
Frank Gannet, newspaper proprietor. 

"To preserve freedom of opinion, we must tolerate even 
an abuse of that opinion,," declared the Secretary in a later 
analysis of the danger of reckless license unscrupulously 
used on the part of newspaper and radio. 

"I would not, if I could," he conceded, "prevent the 


expression in the columns or over the air, of any views on 
public affairs, provided only that the public is not denied an 
equal opportunity to hear the other side." 

Constructing the News Script 

The preparation of the news report is in the hands of 
skilled writers who have learned the art of radio style and 
presentation. It is an easy trick of adaptation, and the prin- 
ciples we indicate are about the same with all news bureaus. 

1. Style is important. A newspaper written entirely in 
broadcast style might strike readers as unreadable just as a 
broadcast "talk" prepared in the style of a newspaper article 
would not receive the same degree of attention as if it had 
the marks of a personal style. 

2. The news as spoken furnishes the "picture paper" of 
the air, hence bulletins should have their share of impelling 
phrases and words that provoke immediate images. This 
makes the news far more entertaining to the ear than the 
reading of short headlines, and the condensed lead which is 
the practice of the daily papers. 

3. Each item covered revolves around one incident, and 
all unnecessary details are omitted. This leaves the listener 
with a single impression, aided by significant "color" de- 
tails which require careful choice. 

4. Statistical figures, in general news reports, bore the 
average listener and are generally omitted unless they con- 
cern matters of national importance such as WPA appropria- 
tions, the Draft schedules, Red Cross collections and the like. 
Figures expressed in generalizations of round numbers are 
more easily rationalized. 

5. Certain special taboos apply to radio news. Transradio 
Press Service includes in this list unpleasant stories that deal 
with crime, unless they are of compelling national interest 
and are already of pulling effect in papers throughout the 


country; also, gruesome details of crimes and accidents, such 
as the description of mutilated bodies or unusual methods 
of physical violence. The listener has no choice, he is at the 
mercy of the broadcaster and cannot stop the tale of horror 
unless he turns off his dial, and then it may be too late. The 
message may have already come through the loud speaker to 
the assembled family. 

6. The brief five-minute resume of the news contains from 
eight to ten fast moving items, each of which is datelined. 

7. The punch sentence consists of seven words or less and 
impacts the ear with a force analogous to the black headlines 
which arrest the eye. 

8. The use of the exclamation "Flash!" is no longer 
countenanced by the FCC. Announcers too often shrieked 
out "Flash" for the most trivial items already widely cir- 
culated in print, or as a preface for bulletins that had not 
actually just come over the wires. 

9. Variety should characterize the items chosen for broad- 
casting. National news should be balanced by local news that 
affects the community within the range of the transmitter. 
Local Boston news may not have the slightest import in 
Seattle or Tennessee. The items chosen are of front-page 
importance dealing with fresh news or latest developments 
and so writers persist that if feasible, no two items on crime 
or politics should follow one another. If broadcasts cover 
more than five minutes, proportion requires that a longer 
treatment of a subject follow a shorter one. Here the rule 
requires study of better listener attention. 

10. At least one news story may be featured and should 
run between one hundred and fifty to one hundred and 
seventy-five words. The average fifteen-minute talk, whether 
it be news or advice on health, contains about two thousand 
two hundred and fifty words although some of the veteran 
commentators cover more ground. For example, Lowell 
Thomas figures about two thousand four hundred words for 


thirteen minutes, and others of the more rapid-fire variety, 
microphone from two thousand five hundred to two thou- 
sand eight hundred words in that length of time. The speed 
in every instance is naturally gauged by the speaker's style, 
therefore, there can be no definite rule for news broadcasts 
anymore than for teaching, spellbinding or preaching. Speed 
depends upon the material and voice personality of the in- 
dividual broadcaster. 

11. For immediate effect, start with <r colorful" news items 
of human interest, and instead of the date line, play up the 
news in a "headline lead." The locale of the story must 
however be clearly indicated in the first sentence. 

12. The most timely and important items may be placed 
where they will make the strongest impression. The biggest 
item will usually come second, but practice varies. The end 
item requires careful selection. Study the news for the fea- 
tures that can be played up entertainingly. The final para- 
graph lends enhancement to the broadcast and rounds things 
out. Lowell Thomas is master of the anecdotal item which 
is remembered long after the news items are forgotten. 

13. The favorite news-time period is between six and eight 
P.M. with an additional summary at eleven P.M. which 
covers events since the last evening edition of the papers. 

14. Special bulletins of transcendental importance may 
be "flashed" immediately and may interrupt a regular pro- 
gram or be inserted between programs. Emphasis on stories 
that appeal to women should be stressed from morning until 
late afternoon during their peak listening hours. 

15. Bulletins of disasters such as aeroplane wrecks or ships 
sinking should be specific as to locale. A generalized news 
report worded: "Twenty people died in an aeroplane crash 
in Ohio this afternoon," would create undue alarm among 
listeners who have relatives flying at that period. 

16. War news from reporters on the scene in foreign 
capitals is becoming of great importance, and should be 
accepted with a view to European censorships. 


The Rise of the News Commentator 

The first commentators of the news over the air were the 
announcers who gave to a listening America, the election 
returns of the Harding campaign of 1920. Only journalism 
was thus ushered in on the air with an event of national 
importance. All this is past history. The News commentator 
came into the radio field actually only when transmission 
and receiving sets became perfected. In 1922, H. V. Kalten- 
born was the first and only editorialist on the air. 

News programs reached their improved form in 1930. Led 
by H. V. Kaltenborn, Lowell Thomas and Floyd Gibbons, 
the news commentator established himself firmly with his 
public. Later, radio recruited Boake Carter, Edwin C. Hill, 
John B. Kennedy and others whose talents lay in the news- 
paper field. 

The background and experience of the news commentator 
are of vital importance in his approach to radio. Lowell 
Thomas was on the staff of more than a dozen large metro- 
politan newspapers before he came to radio as news com- 
mentator for the Literary Digest. His life had been replete 
with action and adventure. An unquenchable thirst for travel 
had carried him to the far corners of the globe where he 
had seen history in the making. He has been a gold miner, 
cowpuncher, football player, law student, reporter, editor, 
college professor, explorer of the Arctic, India, Malaya, 
Burma and Central Asia; special plenipotentiary to Europe 
during the World War, war correspondent, world traveler, 
and author of many books on adventure. He has been an 
intimate friend of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby; of Sul- 
tans, Prime Ministers and Kings; friend of Princely Emirs 
of the East; close companion of Lawrence, the mystery man 
of Arabia; confidant of Carl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxem- 
burg, acquaintance of princes and beggars of Jerusalem 
and Mecca, of London and Rome, of Paris and Singapore. 


Lowell Thomas has been called the "Dean of Radio Com- 
mentators." He had capitalized on his experience by lectur- 
ing to more than four million people who paid close to a 
million dollars to hear his adventures. When first heard over 
the microphone his series of broadcasts, "Topics In Brief 
The News Behind the News," Thomas pinch-hit for Floyd 
Gibbons. He was described as Radio's Newest Voice. Some- 
thing in his rich and modulated tones conveyed a genuine 
friendliness to a vaster audience than he had dreamed of on 
the public platform. 

The busy commentator may need assistance in compiling 
his stuff. Lowell Thomas maintains a private staff, which 
includes Prosper Buranelli and Louis Sherwin, both astute, 
brilliant and competent journalists. 

Floyd Gibbons, before his microphone debut, was the 
newspaper reporter whose one journalistic object in life 
was to scoop the news. Indeed, he has been called the greatest 
"first news reporter" on the contemporary scene. In his 
earlier broadcasting, Floyd Gibbons edited the "Newspaper 
of the Air." He was the first newspaperman to leave an im- 
press of his personality on his listeners. 

Most fast talkers slow down once in a while but Gibbons 
developed a rat-atap pace of some two hundred and seven- 
teen words per minute that held listeners spellbound. He 
translated newspaper experience into microphone experi- 
ence. Eagerly and briskly he commenced: "Hello, every- 
body, bushels of news today, things popping up all over the 

Floyd lost the sight of one eye by a machine gun bullet 
at Chateau-Thierry. John B. Kennedy recalls that Floyd used 
to have his scripts typed in jumbo type so that he could read 
easily. "With that big type he would come to the studio with 
forty or fifty pages of stuff, almost four times as many as the 
rest of us used!" 

Floyd Gibbons' manner was to lean toward the mike, his 


torso out-spanning the back of the chair by six inches on 
either side. He shot a quick glance over his shoulder at the 
studio visitor. The full lips of a rugged ringside face curled 
into friendly smile and foiled the glint of his one blue eye. 

Occasionally radio makes a discovery in an outsider like 
General Hugh S. Johnson. The former ruler of the NRA 
on the air in 1939 established himself as a personality among 
the commentators. He scorned the academic style, and 
huskily expressed his opinions with dogmatic authority inter- 
spersed with Americanisms. If listeners differed from him, 
it was a warm colorful manner that listeners seek. Here is 
the man who is of the salt of the earth. His contract calls 
for delivery of a script two hours in advance of broadcast 
time, so that the network executives could look it over to 
remove any potential dynamite. His custom was to deliver 
it exactly two hours in advance, seldom an extra minute. 
There is a minimum time for argument. 

Don Harold lets loose a satiric shaft in Judge: "And the 
headaches which you get from listening to General Hugh 
Johnson's news commentaries over NBC can be assuaged 
(perhaps) by using Bromo-Quinine, which sponsors him." 

Edwin C. Hill tries to analyze the major events of the day, 
but not too philosophically. His aim is a dressed-up picture 
of events. He is not profoundly analytical. His broadcasts 
conform to the promise that people like to listen to colorful, 
dramatic stories instead of a mere factual presentation. His 
preparation is painstaking yet facile. It takes him a full day 
of research and about four hours of solid writing and re- 
vision to prepare his one broadcast. 

"I have worked out a formula for my broadcasts," Hill 
explains. "First I hit the audience with some topic which 
is both timely and of general interest, after which I tell about 
some amusing angle, followed by a touch of sentiment or 
an emotional appeal, arid conclude with some intensely 
dramatic item." For three years in succession, Hill was 


chosen by the radio editors of the United States and Canada 
as the most popular news commentator. 

Gabriel Heatter is relatively new to radio. For many years 
he was a free-lance writer. He owes his radio career to Don- 
ald Flamm, the president of WMCA. An article by Heatter 
in The Nation so intrigued the young radio executive that 
he invited the author to speak about it over the air. After 
Heatter's initial broadcast in 1932, the invitation was ex- 
tended indefinitely. He ad libbed for fifty-one minutes wait- 
ing for the "flash" of the confirmation of the execution of 
Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the murderer of Lindbergh's 

Whose Mouthpiece is the News Commentator? 

The news commentator is fast becoming the mouthpiece 
of public opinion. If he confines himself to a mere recital of 
the news, he is on safe ground. If he imposes his personal 
judgment on questions of politics, national policy and eco- 
nomic affairs, he will be accused of "propaganda." 

The news commentator always is presented with a 
dilemma. If he is to make any money at all, he must be em- 
ployed by some corporation or other interests. It is but 
natural that the sponsor will choose a man with views that 
coincide with the views of the corporation that pays his 
salary. Even with the best of intentions, the best of the com- 
mentators are bound to be biased. 

Boake Carter was born in Baku, South Russia, the son of 
a British oil man. When Carter began his broadcasts, his 
English accent grated on many. His energetic voice some- 
what pompous in tone was nevertheless friendly enough to 
command respect. A. J. Liebling who "examined" Boake 
Carter in Scribners found that his "scripts are full of facti- 
tious heartiness like 'by-golly' 'great Scott/ and 'by-Jingoes'." 
They also abounded in pretentious premises: "that's a very 


significant fact." He took leave of the listener with a 
"Cheerio!" invitation to his next serial broadcast. 

The episode that made Carter was the fortunate break at 
the Flemington trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnap- 
ping of the Lindbergh baby. In the early stages of the dra- 
matic court room pageants, Carter departed from the con- 
ventional straight news broadcast. Instead he launched a 
phillipic against the forces of crime. CBS, which thought 
the public could not stand such strong stuff, erased him from 
the air waves. A deluge of protests made CBS reverse itself. 
Carter came back. In his heyday, Boake Carter's nightly 
audience was estimated as from ten to sixteen millions. 

He was accused of cloaking his accounts of daily events 
in the tone of dark menace. His attack on labor unions be- 
came bolder. CIO pickets marched in front of Station 
WCAU (Philadelphia) where he did his broadcast and de- 
clared a boycott on the products of his sponsor, Philco 
Radio. Carter studied the radio technique provocative of 
Father Coughlin whom the commentator declared "always 
titillates his listeners." 

Carter always wanted to go out on the limb, and soon 
talked himself into a lot of trouble. The parting of the 
ways was soon at hand. His five year contract with the Philco 
Radio and Television Corporation ended early in 1939. He 
was immediately signed up by General Foods to broadcast 
for Huskies and Post Toasties. Promptly the CIO counsel 
of Philadelphia passed a resolution of boycott against Gen- 
eral Foods' products. A meeting was arranged between Car- 
ter and the union leaders. He agreed he would refrain from 
any direct comment on labor. "It takes two to make an argu- 
ment," he said, "and I won't argue." 

On August 26, 1938, General Foods said "Cheerio!" to 
Boake Carter failing to renew his contract. The man of the 
hour was off the air! How are the mighty fallen! Under the 
impact of censorship applied by pressure groups, the great 


Boake was silenced. One catches something bitter in his 
complaint against his sponsors: 

"I have always expressed my views," he said in a Variety 
interview, "but this butting in on the part of the sponsors 
gets worse with passing months. The unhampered radio com- 
mentator is a thing of the past. He is no more and there is 
no real free speech on the radio. It is absolutely impossible 
today to be a genuine radio commentator on a sponsored 
program. The sponsor we will say manufactures soap, and 
then let the commentator say something about the Germans 
and the sponsor objects because the Germans buy this soap. 
You mention the Italians and he gets jittery for the same 
reason. Everybody uses soap, and he sells soap everywhere, 
so there is nothing to talk about except the weather." 

In 1940 Carter staged a comeback sponsored by the United 
Airlines, a much chastened man. 

Heywood Broun unloosed a shaft against some of his 
fellow newspapermen. "I trust that nobody will insist that 
Boake Carter is an economist or Ed Hill an authority on 
contemporary labor relations. Both gentlemen do excellent 
and exciting jobs. Give either of them no more than a head- 
line and he can make the invisible listener see troop ships 
upon the tide and watch the Derby horses in the stretch or 
thrill to the mental sound picture of a coronation band. 
This is an art. But it is not in any precise sense the craft of 
reporting. For the effect is produced almost entirely by elo- 
cutionary effort. We may see the happenings of the world, 
but we see them darkly as reflected through the particular 
personality of Mr. Hill or Mr. Carter." 

H. V. Kaltenborn carries in his radio message that note 
of integrity and impartiality that has made him known as 
a "Good Will Ambassador of the Newspaper of the Air." 
Withal, he is not lukewarm and unopinionated. He speaks 
his mind with courage, and his judgment on many of the 
social and political issues is trenchant. He has made listeners 


marvel at the truth of his predictions. Example: He fore- 
told the fall of Dolfus and the acceptance of Hitler's ulti- 
matum by the Czechs. His motives are humanitarian and 
constructive. "With radio," he says, "I have a new weapon 
with which to drive home my belief in world integration 
and world understanding." 

Kaltenborn keeps his program up to the minute by read- 
ing, interviewing the great and near-great, and spending 
several months each year in those countries which are seeth- 
ing cauldrons of news. He speaks English, French, German 
and Spanish with facility. 

Kaltenborn was always interested in foreign doings, and 
in 1922 WJZ asked him to conduct a quiz on foreign affairs. 
About the same time, he began broadcasting over the gov- 
ernment station on Governor's Island despite a constantly 
recurring fear complex when facing the microphone. "It re- 
quired four months of regular radio work to put me at 
my ease." 

Some of the broader methods of maintaining strict impar- 
tiality may be noted. 

1. Listeners will have more faith in the commentator if 
he gives his answers to questions of politics and national 
policy, emphasizing that the judgment is his own. 

2. He must not lead the audience astray. In giving an 
opinion he must be honest. If information is not available, 
it is best to say so. It is better to admit that an opinion 
is a mere hazard or a guess, and is not founded on facts. 

3. Every question has two sides. The light should be 
turned to the right and to the left if even for a brief moment 
to illuminate the subject. It is important to show that you 
have considered both sides of a case before announcing your 
own conclusion. 

4. Reinforce any generalization by supporting details. A 
mere say-so is not enough. The radio audience has its critical 
groups as well as those who accept any assertion. 


5. To increase respect for your own opinion, use quota- 
tions from authorities. 

6. The news commentator must not presume he knows 
it all. No commentator can long hold his public if he carries 
an air of self-pretension. 

7. If it is in your power, avoid a contract which compels 
you to kill your commercials with your news comments. 
It is a fatal practice which may bring you more money but 
which will eventually leave you poverty-stricken with the 
radio audience. Gabriel Heatter pours on Kreml so thickly 
that he succeeds in getting into the listener's hair. 

Heywood Broun made the charge that the commentators 
who expound the news every evening are so busy doing 
scripts or having them prepared that they seldom get down 
to earth from their pent houses. Few of the news com- 
mentators make any pretense of gathering news. For the 
duration of their contracts the men who are first class news 
reporters have ceased to be good newspapermen. Vocal pro- 
duction has become more paramount than factual repre- 

Interviewing the Great and the Near-Great 

The work of interviewing comes within the scope of the 
news commentator. This is a particularly difficult art and 
involves a distinctly personal style. One must understand the 
man to be interviewed, as well as the subject matter of the 
issues to be discussed. 

H. V. Kaltenborn has shown a special genius for inter- 
viewing. His easy facility of phrase, and spontaneity of 
speech, and his ability to make the man or woman inter- 
viewed feel at ease before the microphone, makes Kalten- 
born a model interviewer. He knows how to extract informa- 
tion from the great and near great. His colloquy with 
Governor Landon during the Roosevelt campaign is a gem 
of its kind. 


There is no more difficult problem in radio than that of 
the impromptu interviewer. The commentator will at least 
show some insight into the subject to be discussed. Ofttimes 
he will select the subject. He will stress the highlights and 
create something of balance a coordination in a program 
crowded into fifteen minutes or less. The interview will be 
as much an expose of the interviewer as of the interviewee. 

Important interviews require scripts in the hands of both 
parties, prepared in advance. This allows for very careful 
editing. All this is a matter of agreement between both 
parties and requires the most tactful approach, especially 
if the person to be interviewed is ticklish about any change 
in his diction. Everything depends upon the reaction of 
the interviewee to the microphone. The commentator should 
always retain a speech manner that is colloquial. He may 
likewise employ those ad lib touches that remove the inter- 
view from the odium of a mere reading lesson. 

The commentator must judge his man with certain pur- 
pose in mind. First comes the approach. He must gain his 
trust and respect. This personal relationship will solve the 
day. The interviewee himself must be actuated by a 
desire to satisfy some need. The commentator has the deli- 
cate task of persuading his speaker that Radio is calling. 

There are many devices for gaining the support of the 
interviewee. The broadcaster should not touch on sensitive 
topics. His manner should be informal. The one who is to 
be interviewed will be sure to closely scrutinize the radio 
broadcaster to determine how friendly he is and how far he 
can be trusted. Sometimes the little laugh, or a preliminary 
conversation, helps create the feeling of "rapport." The 
manner of the radio interviewer contributes much to the 
success of the broadcast. The commentator's cheery word 
of greeting tends to break down the reserve and restraint 
which may overcome the interviewee. Praise often elicits the 


most immediate response. It certainly is the easiest way to 
make your subject "thaw out." 

It seems perfectly obvious that the broadcaster should 
learn something about the person to be interviewed before 
the interview, and yet this principle is more often observed 
in the breach than in the performance. 

Cultivate an easy conversational tone instead of the Dis- 
trict Attorney prosecuting manner. Such a course will mean a 
smooth performance, pleasant to the ears and comforting to 
the sense. Remember your interviewee is not on trial. His 
answers will flow agreeably, if you do not pound at him. 

Many a commentator fails dismally in interviewing be- 
cause he cannot adapt himself to the point of view of the 
person interviewed. The interviewer should not sit in ju- 
dicial appraisal, upon what is said. He should see things 
through the other man's glasses as early as possible in the 
interview. The program is not a debate, but the drawing out 
of opinion without rancor or dogmatic rebuttal. 

Broadcasters who hope to succeed in the field of inter- 
viewing must master the technique of questioning. Some 
of the silliest interviews come over the air in a series of 
questions that require "yes" or "no" for an answer. Ques- 
tions which are likely to bring about a response unsuitable 
for radio ears are taboo. Ask one question at a time. Dorothy 
Thompson errs in this respect when she gets so excited she 
keeps on interrupting. Another blunder made by broad- 
casters is to repeat ad nauseam what a person has just said. 
This is a cute device for stalling for time and exposing the 
weakness of the interviewer. An interview is expected to 
contribute to the stream of thought. It is permissible to sum- 
marize, to clarify the thought and verify statements. 

Radio is terribly exacting in the matter of pauses. A per- 
son is expected to shout out an answer without time to 
think. If the microphone practice is revised in this respect, 
the interview will seem more natural, certainly reach the ears 
of the listeners more agreeably. 


How to Play Up the Press 

Each commentator has his own particular slants in select- 
ing his material. An analysis discloses, a formula or method 
that is common to them all. 

1. Select some topic of general timeliness which will cap- 
ture the interest of the listeners. 

2. Follow with a theme which has its humorous angles, 
and make a "direct hit" by virtue of your witty interpre- 

3. Next, by contrast, play on some emotional theme that 
will invoke the sentiment. 

4. Return to the more serious note of an event of dramatic 

5. Wind up the broadcast with a return to a less serious 
theme, re-establishing a more pleasant frame of mind. 

6. Finally, end on some cheerful little earful like, "So 
long, until tomorrow," or "Until tomorrow, Toastie and I 
will say, Cheerio!" Some end on a wisecrack, a quotation, 
an aphorism or a rhetorical sentence like that of a Walter 
Winchell broadcast: "Your country had a secession, a de- 
pression and a recession, but it never had an oppression." 

Speaking the News 

The successful news commentator must have the ability 
to write the news, but also to speak the news. Harlan Eugene 
Reid epitomized his own experience as a commentator in 
this way: "The news commentator reads, studies and writes 
all day. Then he delivers his stuff in fifteen minutes at night 
and tries to make the world think that it is extemporaneous. 
If he has written poorly, he may save the day by an excellent 
delivery. If he has a poor delivery, God help him." 

The commentators have the additional problem of re- 
writing the news in their own peculiar radio style of speech. 


The staccato sentences of Walter Winchell are suited to 
his brand of sensational news thrusts. H. V. Kaltenborn car- 
ries more dignity and weight in his discourse. His sentences 
are varied, well balanced, and allow for smoother rhythms 
in speech. 

Lowell Thomas has a freshness and simplicity of style that 
can be easily understood. Boake Carter's manuscript might 
sound pretty silly if read by another. Some critic clocked 
Carter during a fifteen-minute broadcast and discovered that 
he began sixty-eight sentences with "and" and besides Carter 
interlauded his sentences with repetitions of "so's" and 

A few rough notes is all that Kaltenborn brings with him 
to the studio. He picks out the most important news stories, 
and the rest is left to his magnificent gift of diction and 
his power to picturize. 

Sterling Fischer, Director of Talks for CBS, presents this 
picture of Kaltenborn: "He speaks entirely from scribbled 
notes scrawled on old envelopes, or a couple of scraps of 
memo paper spread out on the table. This will give him 
specific material for a half hour talk." 

Raymond Gram Swing, a serious liberal, has had various 
posts with newspapers. In 1936 he became commentator for 
WOR and rose to public favor as a sincere and unaffected 
speaker who relied on the factual rather than the hysterical. 
He never faces the mike without a script and avoids the 
error of talking down to his audience. 

Arthur Hale was tried out in New York, months before 
his radio debut. As "Confidentially Yours," he is supposed 
to have the scoops of Trans Radio ready for delivery. About 
one hundred correspondents supply items, and are paid 
anywhere from five dollars to one hundred dollars for the 
news they provide and are said to be located all over the 
country. Some of them are ex-cabinet officers, ready to sup- 
ply choice items. 


The news commentator as a rule does not seek for literary 
effects. His art is that of colloquial speech. Too much formal- 
ism would destroy that intimate touch of the commentator 
with the listener. The commentator appeals to the audience 
as a living personality close to the heart of things. A pedantic 
style removes him from the popular sphere. 

Guiding Rules for the News Commentator 

The successful commentator who has mastered the details 
of his art can readily adapt his experiences to radio. 

The Editor Emeritus of The New York Times, the late 
John H. Finley, set forth in an address before the South- 
western Journalism Congress shortly before his death: "The 
editor must have a glimpse into all fields of human knowl- 
edge and achievement. He must also be aware of the great 
abysses of human ignorance which no editorial Marcus Cur- 
tius can close, however sacrificially noble his purpose. He 
must not only know something and everybody, but know 
where to get the everything that is known about anything/' 

The editorialist of the air must follow the same rules. 
The news commentator must know the truth as well as it 
can be known, and then know how to tell it. It is more and 
more to the vocal newspaper and less and less to be a propa- 
gandist. To appraise the news in terms of human values is 
the great task of the radio news commentator. 

The following summary is meant to be merely suggestive 
of the requirements that mark the more successful broad- 

i. A wise selection of the headlines in the news that will 
strike the average interest. Everybody cannot be interested 
in everything. The trained newspaperman does not find it a 
formidable task to select from the UP and foreign cable re- 
ports those items that will command attention. This means 
that some fifteen thousand words must be boiled down to 


approximately three thousand words that will count with the 
radio audience, spoken at the rate of one hundred and sev- 
enty words per minute for about fourteen minutes. 

2. The telling of the news quickly, clearly, completely 
and accurately. This is problem enough. 

3. A style that is individual, with a vocabulary not forced 
or stilted. 

4. An interpretative touch in affairs, that is notably free 
from prejudice. 

5. Explanatory details that will increase the interest of 
the listener and help him to understand what is being pic- 

6. The trick of condensing without missing important 
and interesting details. 

7. An ability to select the less important items that reflect 
the human side of the news. These are equivalent to the 
features of a printed newspaper. The bare, brief terse para- 
graphs of the printed newspaper often become the lead 
article of radio. The long, dry, routine stories may demand 
very brief mention. 

8. A sense of proportion in the news. The general news 
commentator does not harp on any one field to the exclusion 
of others. He speaks for a large audience whose varied in- 
terests may not be denied. 

9. A sense of humor. The successful commentator is able 
to glean the laugh from the foibles of men and women as in- 
dicated by their doings from press reports. The radio com- 
mentator is the accurate reporter plus the genial commenta- 
tor. Lowell Thomas said, "Talks should be sprinkled with 
nonsense, with here and there a thrill, perhaps a sob. My 
talks are planned as entertainment, not education." 

10. A sense of timing is important to fill the full period 
assigned. Some commentators make their scripts the right 
length by having a couple of pages of short fillers for use at 
the end. 


1 1 . An understanding of the taboos of radio news report- 
ing. A newspaper man can say things in print which as a 
commentator he would not dare discuss on the air. All this is 
a matter of good taste. A radio audience consists largely of 
women and children, the husband and other members of 
the family. The listeners exercise a definite censorship. If 
any class of listeners are offended, they are bound to make a 
protest. Gabriel Heatter recommends: "There are ways of 
handling stories with the edge of scandal. Never let it get 
out of hand. Treat it from an inoffensive angle. People are 
divided. The broadcaster must exercise finesse in dealing 
with such scandals as that of Mary Astor and George S. Kauf- 
man, the escapade of Eleanor Holm Jarret, or the adventures 
of Jimmy Walker. There is always a way to tone down the 
vicious element in the news." 

12. Flexibility of voice. The newscaster should be master 
of modulation. The ear is sensitive to changes in melody, 
volume and emotional color. The news can be recited in a 
calm, matter-of-fact way and it may also be spoken to lead 
you up dramatically to the climax in such a way that when 
you get there your pulse will be up around one hundred and 
twenty. By the tone of his voice, the commentator may tone 
down or exaggerate the import of the news in the same way 
as the headlines in the press. 

The New School of Gossip Commentators 

Walter Winchell is the father of the school of gossip com- 
mentators. His enormous success is based on the human in- 
stinct to pry into the intimate affairs of people and live 
vicariously on the experience of others. Winchell was able 
to prove that even the most trivial facts hold an extraordi- 
nary fascination for the listener. 

It is in the expansive hinterland of America, away from 
the big cities, that Winchell has his greatest vogue. His 


words are literally eaten up in the sticks. His comments 
touch on all classes of society. No one is safe from his fer- 
reting examination, sports champions, gangsters, actors, mo- 
tion picture stars, the playboys of society, bubble dancers, 
the social climbers and the debutantes, the literary lights 
and the politicians. 

All of this gossip comes over the air with unquestioned 
authority. Tradition has grown up that if Winchell says it, 
the thing must be true. A lawyer skilled in libel practice, 
bluepencils everything Walter broadcasts before it goes on 
the air and, like a man who hates to keep a secret, permits 
America to look in on everything that he sees or learns about 
everybody's life. 

No one has estimated the number which constitutes 
Winchell's radio audience. His listeners probably measure 
up to that abused adjective, "vast." His venture in radio 
parallels his success in journalism. He is credited with draw- 
ing a third of the circulation of the Daily Mirror (six hun- 
dred thousand) and his syndicated column appears in more 
than a hundred newspapers which have an estimated circu- 
lation of seven million two hundred and fifty thousand. His 
Jergen's Journal now in its tenth year, is one of the oldest on 
the air under one sponsorship. Its current Crossley rating 
is twelve which is the top for newscasters as compared to 
Lowell Thomas' Summer Time rating of seven. 

Winchell speaks as he writes, tersely. The air is arrested 
by his crisp flash of: "Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. North 
America and all the ships at sea." A slightly nasal tone mixed 
with breathy quality impels the listeners' excitement over 
the disclosure of hitherto dark secrets. A personal style, 
arresting, with answers to those who write to him personally. 

"Earth shaking announcements," William P. McAvoy calls 
them. "A lot of them have been printed, most of them have 
little significance and you can read any of them next morning 
without raising either your temperature or blood-pressure." 


Winchell talks about two hundred words a minute when 
he broadcasts. 

"Do you know why I go so fast?" he once confessed as 
though he enjoyed the joke himself. "If I talked slowly, 
people would find out what I was saying and remember how 
dull it was." 

At times Winchell's style is too obviously clever and 
affected. He forces epigram and overdoes his balanced sen- 
tence. "Americanism is not using a flagstaff as a blackjack." 
"America is not playing 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 
drowning out the voice of reason." "Americanism is not 
talking of justice when your fellow American needs justice." 

His peculiar genius is in giving his "air column" the touch 
of dignity by espousal of social causes, his respect for the 
downtrodden and the abused; scallions for the villains and 
orchids for the heroes. 

How does Walter act before the microphone? An intimate 
study of him was made by his friend, William P. McAvoy: 
"With his hat on the back of his head, his coat off, his shirt 
open, his tie loosened, he works his sound effects for tele- 
graph and wireless messages while he shouts into the micro- 
phone his 'dots and dashes with lots of flashes from border 
to border and coast to coast/ His nervous excitement ex- 
hausts everybody around the studio, and after twelve min- 
utes of this machine-gun delivery, he collapses like a rag 

Winchell has a long way to go before his radio decline. He 
has a straight fifty-two week contract at four thousand dollars 
per. It may be that time will come when it will be possible 
to use the epitaph prepared for Winchell by a critic and ap- 
proved by Walter himself: "Here lies Walter Winchell At 
last the dirt's on him." 

In the field of movie-gossip Jimmy Fidler has attained 
a vogue which reflects the era of movie-star worship. His 
catch phrase "And I do mean you!" has become a by-word 


to approximately twenty million listeners. He babbles about 
men and women on the screen, opens up the scandals of 
Hollywood and releases the choice bits of human frailty 
to which Hollywood is subject. Twice a week for fifteen 
minutes he is on the air for Proctor and Gamble. His tongue 
is full of sharp rebuke, a tendency which his sponsors have 

Here are the other items which made his competitors in 
the key-hole peeping business sad and unhappy: 

"Flash! I am about to reveal that Clark Gable and his 
wife will announce their intention to secure a divorce to- 
morrow and I will not only divulge that but I will name the 
place where they will meet to settle their financial affairs 
and the lawyers who will represent each." 

Jimmy Fidler is one of the more than five thousand pro- 
fessional gossipers who keep the world informed about the 
doings of Hollywood's greatest. He broadcasts over NBC 
each Tuesday evening, writes a daily news-and-gossip col- 
umn in the interests of a cough sponsor, and spends the 
balance of his time making his competitors' faces an apoplec- 
tic hue by scooping them with astonishing regularity. Where 
and how he gets his information is his own secret. Rumor 
gives him a spy organization second to none in Hollywood. 

Women gossipers of the air are represented by Hedda 
Hopper, the fifth wife of the oft-wedded and now deceased 
De Wolf Hopper. Hedda is rated less accurate than most of 
the gossips, and is famed for her rough talks. In 1939 Hedda 
was signed up on the recommendation of the M. G. M. 
publicity office and lost no time in delving into the careers 
of the Hollywood stars. She is the successor of Louella Par- 
sons, but much more vigorous in method. "You can't fool 
this old bag," she says impulsively. 

And so women remain the target for man's inquisition. 
The world is ever ready to probe into the inner secrets of 
their neighbors and thus satisfy the human instinct for gossip 
and personalia held sacred. 


Radio Foreign News Correspondents 

Radio has brought on an insatiable demand for expert 
commentaries, interviews with men in power, eye-witness 
accounts and the direct speeches of dictators, foreign minis- 
ters and men who rule. 

When technical improvement made possible instant trans- 
mission of the news across the seas by the human voice, the 
Radio Correspondent came into being. The dean of them all 
is Caesar Saerchinger who earned for himself the sobriquet 
of "Radio's First Ambassador." For seven years he served 
NBC as European representative, to resign in 1937 only 
because the job seemed to offer no future. Had he waited 
another year, he would have found his position greatly aug- 
mented in importance and responsibility. 

He was succeeded by Edward R. Morrow. As a radio cor- 
respondent Morrow had three great advantages over news- 
paper reporters on the scene: i. He beat the newspapers by 
hours; 2. He reached millions who depend on provincial 
newspapers for their foreign news; 3. He was able to write 
his own headlines since he emphasized what he wished. 

The broadcast of speeches from America to England dur- 
ing the period of 1930 was practically nil. The actual speech 
that inaugurated speeches west and east was the first in- 
augural address of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His voice cap- 
tured the imagination of the British. 

On the initiative of the British Broadcasting Corporation, 
arrangements were made for a series of talks by prominent 
Americans to be relayed to England alternately by CBS 
and NBS. The first of the series, "American Points of View," 
included such speakers as Secretary Perkins and Pearl Buck. 

An exchange series dealing with the interpretation of 
the news was also organized by CBS under the title of 
"Transatlantic Bulletin." The import of these broadcasts 
was to convey an impartial analysis of political trends and 


developments both of England and the United States. On this 
side of the water we began to hear distinguished British 
journalists and commentators like Raymond Gram Swing, 
Vernon Bartlet and Sir Frederick Whyte. 

International news broadcasting reached its highest peak 
during that tense fortnight when the world felt itself on 
the brink of new cataclysm. The speed and thoroughness 
with which radio brought to America complete news of the 
duel between Chamberlain and Hitler, remains one of the 
marvels of news communication. 

One has but to study the chronology of events to under- 
stand the complexities. Those hectic days, stations stayed 
on the air twenty-four hours. The story of the crisis first 
occupied the foreign radio correspondent when in July, 
1938, the British government decided to mediate to break 
the deadlock between the Czechoslovak government and the 
Sudetan Germans. Lord Runciman was sent to Prague to 
stave off German intervention. 

The second chapter of the swift moving radio narrative 
was laid at Berchtesgaden whither the British Prime Min- 
ister had flown to find out directly from Hitler if there was 
any hope of saving peace. By September 14, 1938, it must 
be remembered, the German troops were already at the 
Czech border threatening invasion. 

The trials and tribulations of a radio correspondent can- 
not be underestimated. Newsweek (December 17, 1939) gives 
a detailed report of William L. Shirer of the strenuosities 
of the work: He traveled two thousand nine hundred and 
fifty miles (practically the distance between New York and 
Los Angeles) by air, train, truck, bus, car, and horse-drawn 
army carts. He averaged two hours sleep daily, mostly in his 
clothes, and ate sandwiches, hot dogs, and coffee until 'Td 
rather starve than face them one more day." He had his best 
meals with the Czech and German troops in the field: "It 
was warm and wholesome (and) trading my American ciga- 


rettes against their food was a fair bargain. American ciga- 
rettes were worth their weight in gold to them." German was 
the universal language. 

Despite these difficulties, Shirer managed to contribute his 
part to the two thousand eight hundred and forty-seven 
minutes of European broadcast carried by CBS: "I've bel- 
lowed so long into the microphone and bad telephones that 
my doctor says that if I don't keep my mouth shut for a few 
days my voice will be gone entirely." 

Max Jordan similarly went through rigors. Although he 
suffered from a cold he made forty trips by plane through- 
out Europe and was obliged to hire a substitute to speak 
for him. 

Jordan disclaims any inside track on his scoops. The four 
power pact was signed at seven P.M. New York time and 
forty-five minutes later, and a half-hour ahead of CBS, NBC 
had the news on the air. This is the impartial attitude 
which should characterize commentators who, in the phrase 
of Caesar Saerchinger are merely "eavesdropping on his- 

The third chapter covers the events at Godesburg where 
Hitler handed Chamberlain a map indicating the territory 
he intended to occupy and announced his intention to march 
on Czechoslovakia. 

The next period is crowded with events that led to the 
pact of Munich. Hitler unconditionally rejects the ultima- 
tum of the Czechs; Britain declares her purpose to associate 
with France and Russia in resisting invasion of Cz'ech terri- 
tory; Hitler makes a violent speech of denunciation; France 
and England begin frantic preparations for war; the Little 
Entente, Rumania and Jugo Slavia mobilize; President 
Roosevelt makes a fervent appeal; the "last, last" efforts are 
made by Sir Horace Wilson to halt the German armies and 
finally a plea is made to Mussolini to use his influence on his 
fellow dictator. 


During that fitful period from September loth to Octo- 
ber ist the networks were put on twenty-four hour duty and 
on many occasions remained open throughout the night. 
From the executive standpoint the situation demanded the 
marshalling of experts both here and abroad. Programs 
were frequently broken into with bulletins. As the inter- 
national crisis increased, NBC and CBS broadcasts spread 
over wide points of origin. On some succeeding days the 
news bulleting and resumes were coming from as many as 
five places on the European map. 

America became accustomed to the cue spoken by Kalten- 
born: "Calling Ed. Morrow . . . Come in Ed. Morrow." 
Kaltenborn phoned Prague periodically and enumerated 
first hand reports from Maurice Hindus on the man-in- 
the-street reactions. 

The man of the hour was H. V. Kaltenbom. The gray- 
haired veteran of the airways practically lived at the studio 
during this period. He spoke about two hours each day. 

In this marathon of achievement, Kaltenborn is regarded 
as one who taught Americans more about European events 
in those twenty days than most of them had learned in a 
lifetime. Kaltenborn's analyses, while not always brilliant, 
were facile and illuminating. A man cannot always be a 
prophet. His occasional lapses are to be forgiven. He be- 
lieved until the last that Chamberlain was a man of honor. 
He interpreted Hitler's final broadcast as a plea for peace 
instead of the pronouncement of doom on President Benes 
of the Czech nation. This slip-up caused Kaltenborn to 
change his opinion on his very next talk. 

The burden for European broadcasts rests largely on the 
representatives of the networks stationed abroad. With Lon- 
don as his headquarters, Morrow was acting as European Di- 
rector for CBS, and in a similar capacity in Berlin was Max 
Jordan of NBC. 

The post of European Director requires more than usual 


gifts and experience. Some brief biographical notes may be 
permitted here. 

Morrow is a South Carolinian born, still in his early 
thirties. He got an insight into European affairs as Assistant 
Director of the Institute of International Education. In 
1935 CBS enlisted him as Director of Talks which afforded 
executive training in apportioning time space for political 
broadcasts during the Presidential campaign of President 
Roosevelt. The toga of Saerchinger fell upon Morrow when 
the dean of European radio correspondents resigned in 1937. 

William Shirer, assistant to Morrow, is a former Chicago 
Tribune newspaperman who came to CBS after service with 
Universal News. 

Max Jordan, a former INS correspondent, holds the de- 
gree of Ph. D. from the University of Jena, and is accredited 
with keen political understanding of contemporary Europe. 
His headquarters are in Basle. Fred Bate, established as the 
London agent for NBC brings to his work the background 
of twenty years' experience in business and newspaper en- 
terprise. He was formerly secretary for Owen D. Young's 
Reparation Committee. 

The Mutual Network Representative is John Steele, who 
was formerly chief of the Chicago Tribune, London Bureau, 
from 1919 to 1935. 

The Director's assignments are not restricted, for he must 
be wherever he can serve best. His is no sinecure, making 
jumps from city to city with a suitcase, making arrangements 
for open circuits, breaking down the barriers of officialdom, 
consulting radio-director generals, interviewing the man-of- 
the moment, contacting foreign chancelleries, engaging the 
best available commentators and always keeping in touch 
with New York office by Transatlantic telephone and pre- 
pared at any moment to step into the breach. 

Allocating all his forces on the continent, Morrow ar- 
ranged to have William Shirer at Geneva. John Whittaker 


of the Chicago Tribune was stationed in Paris. Kenneth 
Downs of the International News Service. In Berlin, White- 
leather of the Associated Press and Pierre Huss of INS, 
Mathew Halton of the Toronto Star, the distinguished 
British Sir Frederick White. 

The rival networks were not to be outdone in their prep- 
arations. With indefatigable skill, Max Jordan and his as- 
sistant Bate made arrangements to broadcast: from Prague, 
the commentary of Karl von Wiegand, correspondent of 
INS; also from Prague, Walter B. Kerr, correspondent of the 
New York Herald Tribune; from Berlin, Walter Deuell of 
the Chicago Daily News; from London, Gordon Lenox of 
the London Daily Telegraph. 

Morrow himself up to 1935 participated personally in some 
thirty-five broadcasts and arranged a total of one hundred 
and fifty-one short wave programs from European centers. It 
is difficult to realize the strain of making a personal broadcast 
at seven a.m. and working throughout the night until the 
next morning at six a.m. Yet this was precisely the routine 
of Morrow on September 28, 1938, when from London he 
connected CBS with Frank Grandin in Paris, introduced 
commentator from the House of Commons, arranged a pick- 
up from Prague, induced Pierre Bedard to interpret the 
speech of Premier Daladier, swung to Berlin to give Wil- 
liam Shirer the outlet to America, returned once more to 
Prague for the comment of Vincent Sheean, and then 
introduced the Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephan King- 
Hall and finally wound up his day with summaries from 
Paris and Czechoslovakia. 

The influence of the foreign radio correspondent is not 
yet quite determined. Some believe that his influence on 
America's reaction to foreign news is more vital than all the 
newspaper editorial judgments combined. A certain amount 
of discretion is necessary in broadcasting from Europe. If 
the network does not keep itself personna grata with the 


foreign offices, it will find itself in hot water. The radio for- 
eign correspondents must be mindful that there will be 
other days when they will need cooperation. They must be- 
ware of prodding the sore spots. 

Such a post requires utmost diplomacy without a sur- 
render to the lie. Otherwise the commentator would be 
just a tool for foreign propaganda. In times of crisis the 
voice of the foreign correspondent may be constrained by 
government officials. The news broadcasts from foreign gov- 
ernments in themselves cannot be trusted. During the 
Czech oslo vakian crisis, WOR made recordings of foreign 
short wave broadcasts from foreign governments and then 
rebroadcast them side-by-side. There can be no more elo- 
quent evidence of the difficulty of getting at the truth. 

Special Events 

Special events are divided into four groups: 

1. Sporting events. 

2. News coverage. 

3. Civic enterprise. 

4. Novelties in special events broadcasts. 

In times of emergency the microphone reporter is on the 
scene to perform a public service. The networks have per- 
formed a signal service in sending calls for blood donors, 
making appeals for food and medical supplies during emer- 
gencies and advancing the campaign for safety in driving. 
Under this head, too, come the broadcasts of speeches of 
celebrities including those of the president of the United 
States. These programs generally can be arranged for in 
advance. Novelty broadcasts are always extremely appealing 
because they break through the familiar routine and bring 
to the listener a sense of the ludicrous. In addition, they 
do not cost much, and yet command the largest audiences. 

The networks have performed a signal public service in 


the organization of a special News and Special Events Divi- 
sion. Included under this general title are news reports at 
the scene, descriptions of significant local, national and in- 
ternational happenings and broadcasts of the speeches of men 
and women in the public eye. In addition this division 
concerns itself with the announcing of major sports events. 

Let us glance at a typical network set-up to handle the 
news. At NBC the work is co-ordinated by a Director who 
commands the services of division officers in San Francisco, 
Hollywood, Denver, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Sche- 
nectady and Washington. The Special Events Department 
of a network functions like a metropolitan newspaper. Tele- 
types provide them with the sending apparatus and a power 
plant. A pack transmitter that fits on a man's back is used 
at such spots that the truck cannot reach. The engineer 
straps the transmitter on his back, runs to the scene and 
short-waves his story back to the truck where it is re-broadcast 
and short-waved to the big station whence it is relayed to the 

The newspaper man has an advantage over the radio re- 
porter. He has only to be on the spot, find out what goes on 
and then telephone, or telegraph the City Editor. The radio 
reporter must have his portable short-wave equipment, for 
he is forbidden by the FCC regulations from phoning his 
headquarters from the scene or to have his voice put over 
the air by the ordinary phone circuit. An exception was 
made during the Hindenburg explosion at Lakehurst, N. J., 
when a radio announcer rushed into the only available tele- 
phone booth and held his ground until NBC's sound equip- 
ment was rushed by plane and truck from Philadelphia. 

The "Seeing Eye" and "Hearing Ear" 

Many special events announcers have not advanced 
beyond the primary stage in the art of oral description. A 


trained newspaperman, able to write vividly about an event 
he observes, may fail utterly in his oral style. For the broad- 
caster, oral skills indeed are more important. Once he is 
on the spot the special news broadcaster is on his own. His 
problem is complex. He is to convey a moving picture in 
words equivalent to the motion picture camera. The com- 
mentator is as good as his words. Such an effort requires a 
vocabulary which kindles the imagination. 

A sparse vocabulary cannot stir a spark in the listener. 
The piling up of hackneyed adjectives, and continued repe- 
tition of the same word, defeats its own purpose. The com- 
mentator cannot overcome the lack of his own imagination 
by the abuse of superlatives such as "grand," "wonderful," 

One would not suspect a British announcer of being de- 
ficient in the King's English. Yet the broadcast of the 
Coronation of George VI found the British announcers 
hopelessly obsessed by such favorite phrases as "You wouldn't 
believe!" This is all perfectly wonderful!" One annoyed 
American counted some dozen utterances of "This magnifi- 
cent spectacle!" 

The British are accustomed to long pauses. Our ears are 
used to swift continuity, no breaks, plenty of ad libbing, 
and a pause of more than twenty seconds leads the listener 
to believe the wire has gone "dead." 

Nothing more easily exposes the emptiness of a news re- 
porter than his groping for words at a time when the listener 
is keyed to the situation. The spot announcer should be 
guided by the adage: "Words are like parachutes they are 
of no use unless they open up." The elementary principles 
of description are more often ignored by the broadcaster. 
Only a few of these principles are here set down in their 
application to broadcasting. 

i. Oral description requires accurate observation. The 
primary function of the special talents announcers is to in- 


form. The "seeing eye" translates the scene to the "hearing 
ear" who, what, where, when, why. The broadcaster's mental 
impression must be clear before he talks into the micro- 
phone what he sees and feels, so that the listener gets an 
accurate picture of what you read over with clarity and the 
rest is easier. 

2. It is best at first to present such a picture or impression 
as one would get from a first glance. One gives attention to 
the mass. From general impressions, pass to the most striking, 
interesting and significant details. Almost by intuition the 
trained observer decides which are the more commanding 
things worth talking about. Emphasis requires that im- 
portant matters stand out and that minor details be kept 
in the background. Too many details will make it difficult 
for the listener to hold the parts of the story together. 

3. The order of observation is generally the space order: 
foreground to background, top to bottom, center to circum- 
ference, right to left. Specific references such as "on the 
right, just beyond, in the distance," will help the listener 
to visualize special relations. As an aid to this impression, 
it is important to indicate the point of view as fixed, 
changed, or moving. 

If the broadcaster is to remain in one fixed spot, it is im- 
portant to select the most favorable point of view. If a 
switch is made from one position to another, say from the 
limb of a tree to the balcony of a house, the listener must 
be reminded of the change to the new point of view. If the 
announcer is in a plane reporting army air maneuvers in a 
supposed foreign attack on our Atlantic seaboard, the point 
of view is constantly changing and the panorama is con- 
tinuously indicated. 

4. A unified description of the scene requires an appro- 
priate ending. Many broadcasters leave the report of the 
scene literally in the whole air. The ending should convey 


the dominant mood of the broadcaster, with the emphasis 
on some important detail. 

5. If you feel you have exhausted your powers or want 
your own point of view augmented, turn the microphone 
over to an assistant. This is called "bouqueting," in radio 

It pays to tell the truth. No need to exaggerate and fall 
into melodrama of your own creation. Floyd Gibbons once 
tried this in a broadcast of the Ohio River Flood, falsely 
indicating that sensational happenings were taking place 
when they were not taking place. He was sued by the script 
writer for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars damages 
who held that his reputation had been marred. Subse- 
quently the suit was withdrawn. 

Military Analysis Commentator 

A new class of commentators grew up out of the war. 
These are military analysis commentators who study the 
military tactics and moves of the powers and report their 
observations over the air. Army and Navy experts are not 
permitted to air their views during their active service. 

These experts are generally former military men or retired 
officers in the aviation, land or sea forces of England or 
America. For a time General Hugh Johnson was NBC's mili- 
tary observer. Major George Fielding Eliot speaks for 
WABC, makes summaries of the evening European short 
wave round-ups. He brings coherence to conflicting claims 
and outlines the probable course of action. Most of the com- 
mentators are poor in voice, speak in monotones and punc- 
tuate their remarks by heavy breath. Nevertheless they re- 
main popular with the listeners. 

The radio war reporter has come to stay. Who knows 
whether short wave transmitters may be set up near battle- 


fields. The time may come when war authorities will grant 
the privilege of broadcasting the actual combat. 

First attempt to convey war news from the scene of battle 
is credited to Floyd Gibbons. In 1932 he was assigned to the 
Manchurian war zone by NBC. The zest of Floyd's voice 
brought to America the sound of big Japanese guns booming 
over the Chinese masses. 

H. V. Kaltenborn was in the heat of the Spanish conflict. 
Making his headquarters at Hendaye, he dashed into the 
Loyalist headquarters and then rushed into the Insurgent 
territory. He sought interviews with the leaders on both 
sides and got material at first hand. 

The battlefront approached the frontier town of Irun. 
From the rooftop of his hotel, Kaltenborn was able to re- 
port the actual process of the fighting. He made a running 
commentary of the horrors of the conflict just as a football 
commentator does, with the battle on the gridiron. Kalten- 
born was on the scene of the bombardment at Fort Guada- 
lupe by two Insurgent men-of-war. He was able to report 
the attack even while the machine-gun fire and the whirring 
aeroplanes roared. 

His report: "In a moment or two, when the machine gun 
which has been barking intermittently all evening sounds 
again, I will stop talking for a moment in order that you 
may get something of the sound of this civil war as it con- 
tinues through the night. This farm is the one most near 
to the fighting scene . . . located some three hundred yards 
from the lines where rebels and government soldiers are 
fighting it out tonight. (Sound of rifle fire.) Those are iso- 
lated shots which are being exchanged by the front-line 
sentinels on both sides." 

"The value of such broadcasts is being questioned," says 
Caesar Saerchinger. People are affected by hearing the first 
hand account of the battlefield, with realistic sound effects 


of explosion and groans. This realistic impression arouses 
peace loving instincts or stirs up animus and hate. 

Oral Styles in Description 

Radio is not always impartial to styles of oral description. 
One style in giving facts, is a precise statement of happen- 
ings. The other might be called "impressionistic descrip- 
tion." It plays upon the listener's imagination and conveys 
something of that emotion which the speaker himself ex- 

The impressionistic method is less concerned with descrip- 
tion as such. It emphasizes mood and emotion rather than 
the physical point of view. If the broadcaster is oppressed 
by gloom at the sight of destructive flood, he must attempt 
to convey this mood to the listener. If he is thrilled by the 
sight of deeds of courage and darings, his choice of words 
should reflect those sensations and emotions. 

Consider those announcers who were assigned to Lake- 
hurst, New Jersey, to broadcast the arrival of the giant 
dirigible "Hindenburg" on that fatal afternoon. The 
dirigible circles the mooring mast and suddenly bursts into 
flames. Should the announcer be constrained to a mere re- 
cital of the facts, or shall he convey the pathos and tragedy 
of the episode? 

The networks do not strait-jacket their special events an- 
nouncers to any one method. Where freedom is permitted, 
the ideal broadcast embraces both factual and impressionistic 
style. Word pictures do more than record, as does the eye of 
a camera. External things, even if faithfully reported, are 
sufficient for the listener. A good oral description centers 
the attention of the listener on one emotion and makes every 
detail add to the effect. 

The reign of George VI will be noted for the first Corona- 
tion broadcast in history. The commentators who were as- 


signed ic report ; Jie ceremonies, v.ere warned that ihey 
must, evoke neither admiration nor humiliation. They <, ere 
to regard themselves as the "eyes of the empire." It is esti- 
mated that out of four hundred million British subjects, 
fully two-thirds of the number listened in. Instead of vis- 
ualizing the pageantry with color and enthusiasm, the British 
announcers did themselves proud by clamping the lid on 
their impulses. The announcers acting under restraint, can 
never fulfill their job perfectly. Such solemnity was seldom 
heard on the air, and at six-sixteen a.m. of the broadcast an 
announcer coughed. Alton Cook reports that this was the 
broadcast's first slip from schedule. 

The act of the announcer joins narrative and description 
with moods, emotions, interests and subjective states of 
mind. First of all, the announcer himself must be stirred. 
The listener can best test the values of a broadcast by de- 
termining to what degree his primary senses are touched. 
If mere words can conjure up sight and provoke a memory 
of sound, smell, taste, touch the announcer has achieved 

A Few Workout Exercises 

You are ordered to talk through your hat. 

Imagine you are George Hicks, of WEAF, wearing a top- 
hat transmitter, mingling with the crowds on Fifth avenue 
during the Easter Parade. Describe the scene as you talk 
through your hat. Your hat contains a portable compact 
microphone station inside. A tiny feather-like aerial sticks 
from the brim of the silk topper, and a little microphone is 
in your coat lapel. A mobile transmitter is in the street and 
will intercept your broadcast from your miniature outfit 
and relay it to Radio City headquarters of NBC for trans- 
mission over the networks. 

A special events announcer never knows the precarious 
spots from which he will have to broadcast. Suppose you 


were assigned to traipse the eight-inch catwalk of the un- 
finished dirigible, Akron, and had to walk sixty feet above 
the hangar? Jimmie Wallington, on this occasion, suddenly 
got dizzy and fell, but saved himself by being fortunate 
enough to straddle the narrow metal plank. 

WJZ's Sunday afternoon variety program of October 20, 
1937, arranged a pick-up from a submarine making a quick 
dive to the bottom of the Atlantic. You are the first of the' 
volunteers called for from the announcing staff to make the 
"crash dive." Describe the proceedings through a mike. 

The sun is shining on a perfect day on June 18, 1937, in 
New York. On the top of the Andes in Peru the sun is about 
to fade out in a total eclipse. You are standing at an eleva- 
tion of ten thousand feet on the crest of a mountain. De- 
scribe the phenomena so that listeners all over the globe can 
"watch" the spectacle in the eerie darkness. 

It is the longest total eclipse (1937) in twelve hundred 
years. It was Bill Perry, the WABC announcer who made this 
ascent up the Andes in Peru for the broadcast. He charac- 
terized the place of vantage as "a point where modern science 
and ancient superstitions meet." We quote here a portion 
of his broadcast. 

"It's getting frightfully dark now," exclaimed Perry. "The 
shadows are creeping up this valley, and from our perch here 
in the churchyard of a quaint old adobe church, which must 
have been built goodness knows how long ago, we are look- 
ing toward the sea and the eclipse. 

"We're almost near totality. Like a huge dim oh, look 
at the prominence those flame-like things shooting up. 
Listen a moment to the people all the children are crying. 
Look at that gorgeous corona. It's beginning to appear. You 
know the shape. Well, it's almost round. Over there is Mars. 
Yes, in the twilight, on the western horizon. 

"Look at the yellow comet. There's a bat just flying di- 
rectly overhead. There's a very interesting sight just over 


on the western horizon. It looks like the last tinge of a dying 
sunset over there salmon color, fading off into a greenish 
yellow on top before fading to a dull gray of the entire 
that's almost violet, isn't it? The stars are such tiny but very 
far pinpoints in this very thin air out here. Looking at the 
sun itself now. Oh, see that prominence brighten out from 
the bottom of the sun. I can think of only one word gar- 
gantuan. The totality is over. The sun is coming back. Now 
it's flashing out and something of light has begun to appear. 
I think it certainly grips you and oh, it is the greatest 
spectacle on earth!" 

Imagine yourself at Juneau (Alaska). One afternoon, the 
outgoing tide leaves a whale stranded high and dry. The 
manager of the radio station rigs up a microphone and 
runs close out to the whale, announcing: ''Hello, everybody. 
You're hearing the first actual broadcast of a live whale on 
the beach. The next sound you will hear will be the whale 
thumping the ground. Listen! Smack! And now listen to him 
blow: 'Whhooooooooo-ish!' " (Juneau, Alaska, 1937). 

You are at the base of one of the great pyramids. By ar- 
rangement with the Egyptian State Broadcasting Service, 
do your stuff before the microphone (NBC, February 7, 


Another workout: You are the NBC representative in 
Italy. Take your portable transmitter and fly into the crater 
of Vesuvius. Report all of the noises, the virtual inferno, in- 
cluding the whistling steam jets, the roar of flowing lava and 
what have you. 

Novelty Reporting 

There is a thrill for the announcers and listeners alike in 
novelty reporting. These are the stunts of radio. A few ex- 
amples: Jump from a parachute giving your impressions 
during the leap. John Read King, announcer, and Gwen 
McCleary, interviewer, had barely time to laugh before 


they were on the ground in an attempt made for WABC 
in July 1939. All is not so rosy, however. In another test, a 
jumper was injured in landing because of the heavy pack 
transmitter strapped to his back. 

Think of the swallows who every year unfailingly never 
miss swooping down upon Juan Capistrano Mission, Cali- 
fornia, from the Pacific for their bow before the microphone. 
Tell the story of the wandering swallows and give them a 
chance to send out tidings of their arrival under the eaves 
of the church. 

The talking bird that stayed silent on Fred Allen's pro- 
gram for six weeks ought to have been a lesson enough, 
but broadcasters have sought animals and birds to go through 
their stunts none the less. NBC shipped crickets all the way 
from Vermont, but the crickets did not let out a chirp and 
the announcer was apologetic. 

Graham McNamee once rose to heights of great eloquence 
when Kuda Bux actually ran through a pit of glowing em- 
bers for the Bob Ripley program on WEAF, and emerged 
apparently unscorched. 

Not to be outdone by noises of animals on the air, Ahe 
Schecter thought up the novelty of a broadcasting singing 
mouse contest. Everyone, it seemed, had a prima donna 
mouse in the house. To solve the problem of superiority, an 
eminent jury of voice critics judged which was the best 
mouse. This was won by Mickey, a five-inch American 

The special events division produced twelve hundred can- 
didates of the animal speaking world for the edification of its 
listeners. Among the performers, were a talking crow, a Tou- 
louse goose, two cockatoos, a magpie, a macaw, and many 
African Grays. Parrots are judged by diction, originality of 
expression, vocabulary and voice quality. The smartest par- 
rot of the 1938 crop was the pet of Carl Carmen of New 


York. With vigorous enunciation he kept repeating: "This 
is the National Broadcasting Company." Oh, wise bird! 

Snakes are the most reliable radio performers. Rattle- 
snakes have been on several programs and a bang or two on 
the side of the cage never failed to stir the reptile into 
audible protest, heard round the world. 

In June 1938 Bill Ware of WKRC was assigned to hold a 
heifer's tail in one hand and grasp the microphone with the 
other as fast as he could and tell listeners all about it. But 
this happens only in Texas where the announcers learn a 
few radio tricks. 



SPORTS has remained the one department of the news 
in which broadcasting is supreme. No other method is 
swifter while athletic events are in the making. No one has 
accurately estimated the number of listeners who tune in 
during the sports programs. The figure would be at least 
approximate to that huge army of readers who avidly turn 
to their favorite sports columnist. 

The selective draft emphasized the relation of athletics to 
physical fitness. It has given enormous impetus to sports, 
and increased the aggregate value of athletic and sporting 
goods manufactured in the United States. 

Radio in sports merely followed the trend of the newsreel 
and the newspaper. Every newsreel traditionally contains 
at least from twenty to fifty per cent of footage devoted to 
sports. So keen is America's interest in the news that no 
metropolitan paper could exist without catering to the fan. 
If the newspaper dropped its sports pages it would probably 
lose from one-half to two-thirds of its circulation. Sports 
programs have a definite spot on the networks. No sooner 
is an important athletic event advertised than the broad- 
casters negotiate to get the radio rights. These programs in- 
clude every variety of sport including turtle-catching and 

Treatment of every game from the broadcaster's viewpoint 
would be encyclopaedic. The radio list of games is for- 

Games Out of the Loudspeaker 

General: Baseball; football (association and rugby, college 
and professional); Softball; tennis; golf; boxing; wrestling; 



croquet; hockey; handball; polo (water, bicycle, horse, air); 
cricket; billiards and pool; ping-pong; squash rackets; la- 
crosse; fencing; and archery. 

Racing: Horse; automobile; motorcycle; aeroplane; grey- 
hound and whippet; six-day bicycle races. 

Track and Field Athletics: Mile; marathon and cross- 
country races; hurdling; hammerthrow; javelin and discus- 
throwing; broad and high jumping; pole-vaulting, etc. 

Young People's Games: Marble contests; soapbox derby; 
aeroplane and glider contests. 

Swimming and Diving: All styles, heights and distances. 

Winter Sports: Skating (figure and racing); ice-hockey; 
skiing; tobogganing and ice-boat racing; curling. 

Nautical: Sculling; canoeing; rowing; yachting; sailboat; 
motorboat; life boats. 

Endurance and Other Contests: Marathon dancing; flag- 
pole sitting; hog-calling; corn-husking; milking, etc. 

How to Become a Sports Announcer and Win Friends 

Sports broadcasting holds out fascinating prospects to 
the announcer. More often the preparation and actual effort 
is perspiring. Your attempts are subject to the sharpest criti- 
cal judgment of listeners who may know more about the 
game than you do. They will set you down as a rank amateur 
who had better stay at home, if you are not careful. 

The task, however, is not so heroic as it seems. Try cram- 
ming upon Frank G. Menke's "Encyclopedia of Sports" 
which covers over one hundred sports from rollo poly to 
aviation, the result of research of over two thousand books. 
A sports broadcaster should have a feeling for amateur and 
professional attainment. He must follow the day-by-day re- 
ports and lend ear to gossip and chatter. He must be familiar 
with every angle of the game, and know the statistics and 
the literature on the subject. Experience as a writer or 


newspaper reporter is helpful training in accurate observa- 
tion and the use of sports English. 

It is a fiction that one must have been somewhat of an 
expert player to be a successful sports broadcaster in any 
special field. True, actual practice in baseball, football, box- 
ing and the major sports will give you added confidence and 
understanding. Such experience offers no criteria that you 
possess the gifts of voice and imagination and those other 
intangible qualities which will make you a national radio 

Every sports broadcast has its peculiar complexities as 
may the game itself. There is no particular trick or open 
sesame that belongs especially to this field. A contest is 
always going on before your eyes. Always there is drama. 
Two forces are opposed to one another, and one must win 
or lose or both come out even. The important attributes of 
a sports commentator can be measured in a general review 
of his own abilities along the lines of these questions: 

1. Have I a sense of dramatics sufficient to appreciate the 
dynamics of a sports contest? 

2. Can I evaluate skills and measure the abilities of one 
team or individual against the other? 

3. Have I originality of thought and expression in the 
vernacular of the game? 

4. Am I facile and varied in the use of words? The an- 
nouncer should have at his command a wealth of adjectives 
and phrases. The maudlin repetition of "What a fight! Boy, 
what fight!" is an admission of verbal weakness. Don Wil- 
son almost ruined his broadcast by the ceaseless repetition 
of the adjective "stalwart" to describe Stanford's players 
and Ted Husing's reference to his ears as "auricular ap- 
pendages" ceased to be humor. Sam Taub, during the Brad- 
dock-Farr encounter, clung to the phrase "the crowd is going 
haywire" until the listener fell into a similar state. 

5. How does my broadcast stand up under the test of the 


three specific virtues of simplicity clarity, liveliness, variety 
and dramatic flavor? 

6. Have I gathered all the available news for future refer- 
ence? Bill Stern averages four hours of broadcasting weekly 
but spends some seventy hours preparing. 

Golf, Tennis and Yacht Races 

Golf has limited possibilities for the announcer blessed 
with imagination or with descriptive sensibilities. Golf gives 
little scope to the announcer's gift of language. An acute 
observer of the game once said that the only part of the golf 
broadcast that is not a yawn is one about five minutes long 
summarizing the results. What excitement is there in hear- 
ing "Hagen is now addressing the ball. Ah, he's sliced into 
the rough?" 

Golf announcers used to stay within a wire's length of the 
clubhouse or carry a pack transmitter on their backs. When 
Ted Husing covered the National Amateur Golf Champion- 
ship in 1936 he had to stand on the edge of the green during 
the puttings and speak in a hissing whisper so as not to 
disturb the players. His new invention is a periscope affair 
which can be planted behind the crowd. It magnifies the 
ball, cup and player ten times and at that distance from the 
players Husing can swing out with his usual gusto. 

The broadcast of the National Open Golf Tournament 
at Philadelphia on June 10, 1939, employed new devices in 
accurate and swift reporting. The broadcast was made from 
a mobilized unit equipped with a short wave system. 
Equipped with wheels of aeroplane size the vehicle could be 
rolled over to the field without hurting the grass. The slight 
hum in the phone was the purr of the motor or generator 
which received signals from the clubhouse. 

Ted Husing, working in conjunction with an assistant, 
took the microphone to verify reports or to analyze the 


plays. In addition a runner brought in fresh news from the 
scores. The changes of voice helped break up the monotony 
of reporting. Here was a game regarded as the classic of Golf 
the play off of a triple in a National Golf Championship. 

The top of a mobile unit is a precarious perch at its best. 
"Your commentator," said Husing apologetically, "is speak- 
ing from the top of a mobile unit. Perhaps you will under- 
stand. I want to catch my breath. People are trying to jump 
up on our wagon." 

Occasionally he carries on a conversation with Harry 
Nash, in semi-interview fashion, asking for verifications. 

"The ball is like a soap bubble." "It stopped as though 
there were a magnet on the green." 

"She's rolling straight. We'll watch the cup . . . and here 
comes Craig Wood . . . wait a minute hits a tree 
bounces off at right angles . . . not a tree but a person 
. . . let's go right up ... hit somebody on the head . . . 
the police are out there . . . move out all these wires . . . 
Jimmy, most amazing thing, while I fix these wires . . . talk 
about that, Harry." 

At the eighteenth, Wood reeled off a two hundred and 
eighty yard drive down the middle, with Nelson fifteen yards 
in the rear. Nelson's finish is regarded as one of the gamest 
exhibitions ever seen in golf. 

Such a game is an unusual test of physical stamina for 
the broadcaster. For over three hours he was continuously 
on the air, with moments of rest only when his assistant, 
Harry Nash, broke in to air a collection of notes. The com- 
mentator's task is to make the radio audience throb with 
the excitement that infects the gallery. He observes the ter- 
rain, the traps, the condition of the wind, indicates the 
players' position at each stroke and summarizes. Sometimes 
he waxes eloquent "That is what we call 'Golf Divinity.' 
Shot making has been exemplary." 

Automobile racing, from a radio viewpoint, is not the 


sport of death-defying thrills that it is for the spectators. 
Here is the demon Speed, toying with tragedy. Will man or 
machine be victor or victim? Try as hard as they may, 
broadcasters have never conveyed to listeners the thrill of 
the scene. In the three hundred mile Vanderbilt Cup race 
at the Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, Long Island, on 
October 13, 1936, McNamee attempted to convey the im- 
pression of speed and excitement by shouting, which is a 
futile substitute for the real thing. Ted Husing, who held 
sway over the CBS microphone, wasted a lot of time spout- 
ing meaningless phrases about track layout. 

Least interesting is the microphone story of the automo- 
bile races in Indianapolis. A rumble, a roar, a "here he 
comes" and "there he goes" is about all the broadcaster can 
make of it. At least that is all they ever have made of it. 

The broadcaster must convey the duel at all angles, the 
changes of pace in speed. Paul Gallico expresses the impulse 
of the view which "artistically as well as emotionally is 
satisfied. A good player increases the length of his drives 
shot after shot the way an artillerist lays a creeping barrage 
forcing an opponent beyond his own base line and then 
suddenly finishes with a drop shot and falls just over the 
net or reversing the procedure tees his man toward the 
center court and then angles him." 

Alton Cook observes that basketball and hockey broadcasts 
can easily slip into confused verbal jumbles." These two 
sports are difficult for an announcer to picture because the 
action switches from end to end of floor or rink with be- 
wildering activity. With the added handicap of not knowing 
which team is doing what these broadcasts become affairs 
exclusively for the fans of the expert class. The listener is 
obliged to memorize a few dozen names in advance to keep 
track of who has the ball or puck. 

Polo may be the aristocrat of all sports . . . but com- 
pared to hoi-polloi baseball, the game lacks loudspeaker 


thrills. Even Ted Husing, who described the championship 
contest between Greentree and Old Westbury, failed to 
make it interesting. 

Tennis broadcasters have the air of addressing themselves 
to other tennis experts. Casual listeners are made to feel 
that they might as well wait for the final announcement of 
the score and let it go at that. Vincent Richards, who re- 
ported at the Bill Tilden-Perry game of 1937, belongs to the 
calm and straight-forward school of announcers. He does not 
bother to make things seem more exciting than they really 
are. Richards skips the less important shots in the rally. He 
uses surprisingly little tennis vernacular. The trick in such 
a broadcast is to summarize as the game progresses and 
describe the final coup in detail. 

Broadcasters do scant justice to the speed and daring of 
sport's most thrilling event, the Memorial Day speedway 
races. The least interesting is the broadcast of the five hun- 
dred mile classic race at Indianapolis which is regarded as the 
most dangerous, richest, longest, and fastest in the United 
States. One listener sums up his impression of the broadcast: 
"Calling 'a rumble,' 'they're off,' 'there he goes' is all the 
broadcasters can make of it." And this in spite of the fact 
that the broadcasters use the latest short wave equipment in 
order to be free from the necessity of working on one spot 
on the track and are thus able to cover four hundred and 
forty-three acres of the ground on any part of the two mile 
track with complete mobility. 

International Cup Races call for a battery of announcers 
along the thirty-mile course. On land and sea and in the air 
are stationed the vocal reporters of the scene. In practice the 
networks engage special yachting experts to lend authority 
to the broadcast. Ted Husing, for example, in the 1937 
races, was assisted by Sherman Hoyt and Edward P. Foster, 
American yachting experts, and John Hughes, British 
authority. WOR engages Cameron to assist the regular 


Special Events broadcaster, David Driscoll, with the tech- 
nical aspects. 

For CBS, George Hicks and Professor Kenneth M. Davi- 
son follow on the Coast Guard cutter "Sebago." From a 
plane overhead, Bill Stern relays his impressions of the race. 
At the finish line in a patrol boat is Arthur Feldman, ready 
to complete the picture with a recital of closing events. The 
race begins. Two sleek yachts, the defender, ''Ranger," 
entered by Harold S. Vanderbilt; the challenger, "En- 
deavor II," sponsored by T. O. M. Sopwith. 

The start of each day's race is broadcast from twelve-thirty 
to one p.m. A report of the progress of the race is given from 
one-twenty-five to one-thirty each day and at intervals 
throughout the afternoon. And in addition to these eye 
witnesses, one of the experts is heard in a daily resume of 
the races between six-fifteen and six-thirty p.m. There are 
dreary gaps that need filling in. A fog settles on the water. 
The announcer cannot describe what he does not see. The 
listener is left to the mercy of the announcer who, if he 
lacks wit and authority, may become as dreary as the 

At Poughkeepsie Ted Husing had a terrible time battling 
the elements, and he was further hampered by the low 
barometric pressure which lowered the smoke of the ob- 
servation-train engine and formed a screen between the 
announcer and the crews hurrying down the Hudson. With 
vision obscured by mist and rain it is no easy task to call 
the winner. 

The Fight Is on the Air! 

The super magnet of all radio programs is a heavyweight 
championship fight. All the suppressed and primitive sav- 
agery of man is stirred by the combat. Statisticians estimate 
that ninety-six percent of all the radio sets are tuned to 


the fistic battle. The nation, moved as if by mass hysteria, 
becomes one huge listening machine. The championship 
fight indeed has more listeners than the broadcast of Presi- 
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Heavyweight championship fights make the generators 
hum to supply a "tidal wave of current." The electrical 
meters begin to show an increased consumption about a half 
hour before the bout due to the snapping on of thousands 
of radio "on switches," and electric lights. 

The first sports event that was broadcast was a heavy- 
weight championship, the first million-dollar gate. The 
historic setting was laid at Boyle's Thirty Acres in Jersey 
City on July 21, 1921. To the martial strains of the "Mar- 
seillaise," ninety thousand men and women rose from their 
seats to greet "Gorgeous" Georges Carpentier who had come 
fresh from war laurels from the heart of Paris to wrest the 
title from Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler. 

Major J. Andrew White did first honors before the micro- 
phone. To him may be accredited the title of "Pioneer 
Sports Broadcaster," who convinced the skeptical officials 
that a championship bout was an event of national interest 
that deserved the air. 

Technically, the plan seemed simple enough, and station 
WJZ at once undertook the work of installation. The rest 
was left to fate. 

Equipment was hastily set in place; a wire line linked to 
the ringside microphone with a transmitter; an aerial strung 
between the wireless towers of the Lackawanna Railroad 
near Hoboken; radiophone housed in a galvanized shack 
near the yards. The fight is on the air! A brief color story: 
the frightful humidity of that July afternoon; aeroplanes 
overhead, the Manassa Mauler seated in the arc of a huge 
floral horseshoe, and the expectant throng awaiting the bell. 
Major White, huddled close to the resined canvas was to 
chronicle the slaughter blow by blow. His voice came over 


the air, mixed with static and noises from the scene of the 
conflict. Dempsey swings upward to the jaw. ... In the 
first half minute Carpentier hits the dust. . . . Four rounds 
. . . The Frenchman is down . . . for the count. Hysteri- 
cal mob. 

The public received this broadcast as a revelation of 
radio's possibilities. Listeners got the result instantly and 
did not have to wait for the next morning or evening edition 
to digest a newspaper yarn. Where else would the micro- 
phone be carried in reporting sports events? Broadcasting 
was then but one year old. Remember, too, that this was the 
era of the crystal set and earphone. Yet this broadcast was 
the beginning of the period when the blare of radio was 
heard in the public streets. Such was the demand for the 
fight result that shopkeepers rigged up old phonograph horns 
outside their windows to magnify the sound. It was all done 
by the simple expedient of clamping the earphones of their 
radios to the horns. Thus the voice of Major White was 
blared to the crowds on the street who were in the same 
throes of excitement as the seventy-five thousand who paid 
$1,789,000 to watch the struggle. The radio audience for 
this broadcast is estimated at some two hundred thousand. 

Advance the time a little more than five years, to 
September 23, 1926, and change the scene to the Sesqui- 
Centennial in Philadelphia. Here Tunney takes the measure 
of Dempsey in a torrential rain, when within a half hour 
he batters the supposedly invincible champion beyond 
recognition. This is a historical battle for radio because it 
is the first to be broadcast by a network (WEAF), and also 
because it is the first championship fight to have an inter- 
national radio hook-up. Shortwave brought the fistic battle 
to Europe, South Africa and South America. This time 
approximately fifteen million people abroad cupped their 
ears to the voice of Graham McNamee and Major J. Andrew 


Fight broadcasting over the years became a prized feature. 
The Louis-Braddock fight of 1937 helped to bring about a 
strong competition for the right to broadcast major bouts. 
Both networks bid for the privilege, each hoping to find a 
sponsor to take over the financial burden. 

Yesterday's Fight Broadcasts 

Older fans will remember fight broadcasting as an ex- 
tended and exciting affair. The listener was permitted to 
revel in the full noises of the arena. He caught the clamor 
and frenzy of the crowd. The preliminaries were on the air 
at least a half hour before the major battle. The announcer 
was on the spot to interview celebrities and to pick up the 
sidelights. He packed the minutes with quick verbal pictures 
that lifted the emotions to high pitch. 

Ringside broadcasting has greatly changed since the days 
of the Dempsey-Tunney bout. The Schmeling-Louis bout of 
1936 ushered in a new routine. Today the sponsor pays for 
time, and the time is limited to the sponsor's contract. The 
sponsor of the Louis-Schmeling fight of 1938 figured on 
clearing the wave lengths of over a hundred stations for 
sixty minutes, but the program was ended almost before it 
started. He was billed only for the time consumed which in 
actual fighting was two minutes and four seconds. 

Many look back with regret at the changes in fight broad- 
casting. Much of the atmosphere of the early days is omitted. 
No longer is the fighter followed in his picturesque journey 
down the aisles from the dressing room to the ropes of the 
arena. Now the announcer often reads from a prepared 
script which is presumed to add color to the scene. Back- 
ground noises are coldly cut out of the perfected microphone 
of today, or else the roar and excitement are filtered to a 
point that makes the arena sound like a tranquil gathering 
at tea time. There were days when listeners got the real 


thing in excitement, and could catch the shrieks of entreaty 
from the crowd. 

Today the listener catches faintly the hollow echoes of a 
Joe Humphreys introducing the contestants and calling their 
weights. And during all this, the radio announcer in control 
of the mike may be reading from his script. The gong rings. 
The mike passes from the announcer who has just "colored" 
the scene, to the expert who describes the blow-by-blow 
action. Words fly faster than fists, but only once in a while 
can the listener catch the thunder of the arena crowd. Sel- 
dom is heard that atavistic cry, 'Tight, yah yellow bum. 
You're layin' down on me. Fight, yah tramp!" 

Fights no longer live on the air a half-hour after the bout. 
In the early days, the fan was regaled with running com- 
mentary from fight veterans or celebrities who had seen the 
fight. Radio time permits neither postlude or post-mortem. 
The fight once ended is ended. 

Can a Fight Broadcaster Be Honest? 

Except for a few one-sided matches, almost every major 
fistic battle has launched furious arguments about the 
honesty of the commentator. The broadcaster's view is often 
at total variance with the facts as disclosed by the camera 
and newspaper accounts. One caustic critic has remarked 
that if the listener were to attempt to see eye to eye with 
the broadcasting description of a fight, and the newspaper 
accounts, he (the listener) would be apt to become cross- 

Announcers should be impartial, and their judgment 
uncolored by prejudice or favoritism. Trouble is caused by 
people who insist on knowing right at the moment whether 
the punch is a hook or a right cross. "Blows are not always 
what they seem," said McNamee. "A dramatic roundhouse 
swing that should fell an ox often seems to have no effect. 


The damaging blows and frequently the knock-out punches 
are never seen. In the interest of accuracy the blows cannot 
be called as they fall." As a rule, McNamee, who originated 
the "excitement" school does not bother much with these 

What some critics call frantic to the point of the ludicrous 
may bring very powerful sensations to the listener. There 
was Clem McCarthy on the night of the historic Louis- 
Schmeling battle. A second after the decision he was able 
to corral Louis to the microphone. But Schmeling, tem- 
porarily dazed, remained inaccessible guarded by his seconds. 
"Max!" cried Clem, "Max!" The cry was hysterical. "Max 
come over here . . . Max . . . Officer . . . get Schmeling 
... I can't get him ... a badly beaten man . . . never 
saw any other fighter look so badly." 

Calm and conventional commentary would have lent dig- 
nity to the broadcast, but not drama. Listeners by mere tonal 
suggestion caught the pathos of the scene, and Clem re- 
deemed himself for his previous omissions. 

After nineteen years of fight broadcasting, Radio is still 
seeking the ideal announcer who is able to sit at the ring- 
side and give a lucid, lively and accurate picture of heavy- 
weights in action for the championship. 

Clem McCarthy's broadcast of the Louis-Baer contest was 
notable for shrewd, wise summaries of the strategy as well 
as a graphic, understandable account. 

Graham McNamee earned for himself the title of "The 
Irremovable Big Fight Announcer." Many think that Mc- 
Namee is too picturesque and not technical enough to be at 
the ringside. Others prefer spontaneity, color and a dramatic 
voice to the calling of uppercuts, and the varieties of jab. 
He admits he misses a lot of the details in his ringside 
descriptions. He keeps up a running chatter and is fre- 
quently behind the bell. Occasionally he gets tangled up in 
telling who landed what and when and where. 


"But I don't think that makes an awful lot of difference 
to the great air audience," explains McNamee. "It's my 
opinion that the audience often doesn't know or doesn't care 
what a left hook or infighting is. The listener wants a 
dramatic picture of the scene, he wants to follow the progress 
of the fight. I try to get to him the information as fast as I 
can and I get excited like anyone else while I'm doing it." 

Charles Francis Coe is the master fight commentator who 
reported with Ted Husing the Louis-Sharkey battle. Socker 
Coe follows the mixed style in broadcasting. He explains his 
way in a specific instance: "You see a fighter comes out of 
his corner and jabs with his left a few times, each time a 
little short. Instead of saying, 'Short with a left, short with 
a left, short with a left,' you don't know whether he really 
intended to land those or was just trying to make the other 
man lead. You say so. 

"Follow the offensive. Usually, from the man's position, 
I can anticipate what he's going to do and keep right up 
with the action when he does it. It sounds easy. Of course, 
sometimes they don't do what you expect. You have to 
develop a glibness to cover this." 

Voice and Diction for the Fight Broadcaster 

Listeners have become accustomed to the sparkle and 
spontaneity in voice that mark the successful broadcasters. 
One critic calls this the genius of making the listener feel 
that something tremendously stirring was always just a 
sentence away. When the sponsors of the Baer-Carnera fight 
sought to replace Graham McNamee, they auditioned scores 
of candidates for the post. None of them came through with 
the same vigor and liveliness of McNamee. And McNamee 
was retained in spite of the growing complaints regarding 
his inaccuracy. 

There is no one who in a few minutes can create and 


maintain suspense as skilfully as Clem McCarthy. With a 
keen sense of the dramatic, he combines a sharp eyesight, 
a fast and authoritative tongue and a voice tensely toned. 

Fight broadcasting requires stress on significant words 
without straining. Excess emphasis will convert the best 
intentions into sheer noise. "Socker" Coe commands atten- 
tion because he is gusty, hearty and emphatic. At times he 
is crisp, but never monotonous. 

Overemphatic delivery covering a period of a fifteen- 
minute broadcast tends to become sing-songy. Clem Mc- 
Carthy errs in this respect. A more distributed stress on 
key words would relieve the regularity of the accent. Clem 
is the son of an auctioneer and is deft of tongue by in- 
heritance. His speech record is some two hundred and forty- 
four words a minute, a pace which strikes the ear with 

It is easy to portray a fighter as putting up a better fight 
than the actual results show. Socker Coe in his broadcast 
of the Sharkey-Louis bout gave the impression that Sharkey 
was putting up a better fight. Clem McCarthy made the 
Farr-Louis fight about even. The truth is Farr never stood 
a chance. Sam Taub, we believe, would not have erred in 
this respect, because he has habitually shown a more accurate 

Resolutions of a Fight Broadcaster 

Suppose you find yourself in a state of nerves while wait- 
ing for the bell which will send the heavyweights into 
action. Your mind is set on doing justice to the occasion 
and your very anxiety makes you more tense. How shall you 
acquire that balance which is necessary before you talk into 
the microphone strapped from your shoulders? You might 
indulge yourself in a brief monologue in some such resolves: 

Resolve i. I will lose all worry about my bias of judg- 


ment. I will step into my character as an impartial expert 
and lose my character as a prejudiced individual. 

Resolve 2. My own mind cannot bribe me to distort the 
facts. I must report to my listeners those things that they 
would see with their own eyes under the glare of those white 
lights were they transported to the scene. "The toughest 
part of broadcasting," says Sam Taub, "is the fact that you 
are intimate with all the boys in the game. Tell your story 
adhering to the facts and not permitting personal feelings 
to enter the picture. 

How easy a prescription this seems. You will have made 
a terrible oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and noth- 
ing but the truth. Suddenly you have a shaky feeling. Your 
heart and sentiment yield. You see your favorite struck with 
vicious blows, and you make no mention of them, nor report 
them as light taps. Your man is weakening, yet you build 
him up as possessed of endless strength. You lose your sense 
of proportion, and before you know it you are overcome by 
your own prejudices. You are no longer useful as a broad- 
caster. The public finds you out when the first extras reach 
the street. 

Resolve 5. I will not make any positive predictions as to 
the winner. Anything can happen as in that historic long- 
count when Tunney arose from a state of stupor and gave 
Dempsey a merry chase around the ring, finally to be hailed 
the victor. 

Resolve 4. I will call the blows as I see them, and I shall 
do my best to see them as they happen with one respect to 
certain taboos. The spilling of blood is tabooed under the 
ruling of the New York State Boxing Commission which 
decrees that listeners shall not be unduly roused by descrip- 
tion of the carnal side of any bout. Hence, do not linger 
on the picture of Braddock, blinded by his own blood in his 
gory battle with Tony Galento, or commiserate Tony hacked 
by Max Baer. Read about it in print if you will. The New 


York Times recorded James D. Dawson's description of 
Galento's face as "red as a piece of raw beef." 

Resolve 5. If in doubt I shall call the close rounds even. 

How to Quicken Eye and Tongue 

Few realize how strenuous is the business of broadcasting 
a fight. Talk into the microphone, and you will realize the 
extraordinary amount of mental concentration required. The 
cycle of nerve impulses is swift and continuous. Messages 
flash to the brain by way of the optic nerve. The speech 
centers are excited. The nerve impulses are sent to the 
organs creating articulate expression. In a blow-by-blow 
description the broadcaster must perform the impossible 
feat of synchronizing speech with what is going on. He soon 
learns that even the shortest sentences fall behind the speed 
of the punches. No other sport more completely demands 
flexibility of tongue. 

Sam Taub surprises you with his glibness. He even man- 
ages to make extraneous comments when the two fighters are 
making onslaughts on each other with lightning rapidity. 
Consider that a trained newspaperman finds it possible to 
dictate three or four hundred words to a round, if he has a 
fast, experienced and cool telegraph operator at his side. 
The commentator talking into the microphone can go far 
beyond this number of words say six hundred. He calls the 
blows out as he sees them, and he must see accurately. 

Two men are trying to do one another as much injury 
as possible within an allotted space of time, and the broad- 
caster's task is to report how the punishment is meted out. 
Many a specific problem must be solved instantly with a 
glance of the eye. Camera is down! You must get that over 
with first. Which hand of Baer struck? Left or right? Hook 
or cross? This is not the time for reflection. The experi- 
enced commentator watches the stricken fighter. Is he out 


like a light, or is he taking a comfortable rest up to the 
count of nine? Watch him as he leans on his elbows, strug- 
gling to get to his feet. Will he collapse? Pick up the count. 
Watch Baer, see what he is doing, whether he has retired 
to the neutral corner. Keep your eye on the referee as 
Camera attempts to rise. Will the referee stop the fight? 

The 'Tween-Rounds Announcer 

In practice it is the duty of the 'tween-rounds announcer 
to shrewdly summarize the action of the preceding round. 
Such commentary must be crowded into less than two 
minutes. This calls for a swift survey of the scene, quick 
judgment, making rapid notes, and perfect timing. It is 
often the duty of the secondary announcer to squeeze in the 
"commercials" as deftly as possible. 

Bill Stern has the sponsor's tough job of making Adam's 
Hat fit the heads of as many listeners as possible. The com- 
mercials are often left to commercial announcers like Ben 
Grauer who, as in the Louis-Galento bout, can frequently 
inject the keen edges of the Schick Injector Razors. 

Everything must be co-ordinated so that the sponsor will 
not be blotted out of the picture. In a few short sentences, 
the action of the round must be summarized. Ten seconds 
before the next round, the buzz at the ringside will remind 
him that he must release the microphone to his blow-by- 
blow partner. 

It is an art to call the blows expertly and at the same 
time add word pictures. The commentator has little time 
for extraneous descriptions. The between-rounds announcer 
may slip in things left unsaid by the commentator, and 
round out the picture with some deft word touches. 

During the Louis-Schmeling bout of June, 1938, Ed 
Thorgersen, the secondary announcer, lost his opportunity. 
Instead of mentioning the throwing of the towel into the 


ring, which Clem had failed to note, Ed, who was inexpe- 
rienced, went off into generalizations: " Louis has culminated 
one glorious victory. You have a feeling that he believes 
himself the undisputed champion. The beating he handed 
Schmeling tonight dispelled any doubt as to who was the 
best fighter. Everybody has been taken by surprise and 
bewilderment. Here's Clem." 

This inter-rounds job requires quick colloquial speech. 
The 'tween-rounds announcer, like his partner, should be 
a master of ad libbing. Bill Stern who works sometimes with 
Sam Taub, is not fast. The broadcast follows a definite rou- 
tine. The best rounds announcer becomes the color an- 
nouncer, describes the setting, calls attention to the pre- 
liminary bouts, delves into the history, garb, and weights 
of the fighters, brings celebrities to the microphone, and 
permits the name of the time keeper, knockdown counter, 
and referee to seep through the loud speaker. 

Bill Stern provides himself with large pieces of heavy 
cardboard on which is pasted the miscellaneous information 
he has tested for reading within the period of fifty-five 
seconds. When a round has become full and uneventful, Bill 
can take refuge in his notes as Sam Taub calls: "End of 
Round Two . . . Take it, Bill." 

William C. Hill, who was Clem McCarthy's announcing 
partner, was guilty at one time of reading a prepared-in- 
advance script on the primal killing instincts of man. This 
shows a weakness. The sponsor may decide on a cordon of 
announcers. Thus for the Louis-Galento fight, Gabriel 
Heatter provided color and between-round commentary, 
Bell Stern, the blow-by-blow account, and Ben Grauer went 
off on a roving assignment around the ringside after the 

Broadcasts are more effective when there is a difference 
in quality of voice between the blow-by-blow announcer 
and the 'tween-rounds commentator. When working with 


Clem McCarthy during the Louis-Schmeling fight of June, 
1938, the higher-pitched voice of Ed Thorgersen was in 
marked contrast to the hoarse, tense, dramatic tones of 
McCarthy. Other characteristics of speech help in establish- 
ing the identity of the two commentators. The clean-cut 
and precise diction of Brooks Temple offered a distinguish- 
ing mark to the less elegant and less precise diction of Sam 

Styles in Fight Broadcasting 

Broadcasters themselves are in conflict as to the best styles 
for fight broadcasting. The camps are divided into the blow- 
by-blow stylists and the newspaper commentary stylists. The 
conventional method of blow-by-blow description has its 
difficulties. It is no small miracle to get in a word about 
every blow. Such detail makes the rights and lefts to the 
head sound alike and the listener is left wondering whether 
some of them were not harder than the others. 

The experienced broadcaster can group a series of punches 
into a single phrase. He spends more words on punches that 
have an immediate effect or that might have a later effect. 

Fight enthusiasts who listen in at home complain that 
radio announcers at the ringside try to say too much. They 
strive to tell about every incident, great or small. As a 
result of the lack of selectivity, words become tangled, for 
example, "Max hit Max"; or one announcer reports Max's 
left eye closed, while another claims it is the right optic that 
is battered and useless. These frequent slips in big broad- 
casts are due to incoordination between the eye and the 
mind. Only experience can correct this failing. Among the 
pioneer broadcasters who have specialized in boxing, Sam 
Taub remains unsurpassed in straightforward, crisp and 
detailed description of several fights a week in the smaller 
metropolitan fight clubs. 

The broad descriptive method in fight broadcasting pays 


less attention to details. It permits pauses in which to point 
out strategy and fighting style. Instead of a continuous re- 
port on blows, the listener gets a quick flash of meaning 
and purpose behind these dynamics of action. 

The incisive tone is best for marshalling facts into rapid 
summary. Shorter sentences allow for stertorous effects that 
are gripping. The voice can be made to give the shading in 
volume that anticipates the climax of the big blow. Words 
are not enough. It is the tone in which ideas are conveyed. 
An "Oh, Boy!" carries more weight than fancy descriptions 
of a flock of punches that hit nothing. The use of the 
present tense makes for vividness. 

Sam Taub is a native of the East Side of New York like 
ex-Governor Al Smith of rad-dio fame. As a reporter of 
outstanding boxing events for the Morning Telegraph over 
a period of twenty years, he acquired an ease of penchant 
for description. Covering a span of fifteen years he has 
described in the air some seven thousand ring contests which 
include championships in every class. On small stations he 
often remained at the microphone for twenty rounds at a 
stretch with no relief of a between-rounds announcer. Sam 
is spoken of by Alton Cook as working himself into a lather 
of excitement hunched at his microphone with his hat on. 
He never takes his hat off during broadcasts. "It helps me 
sweat," he explains. 

Fight broadcasters should be at home with the vernacular 
of the ring. Sam Taub, who for many years broadcast locally, 
in 1937 was assigned to the networks. He is a past master 
of fight "lingo." There is something vivid and picturesque 
in his terse descriptions. It is said, however, that Sam did 
not get his chance on the networks earlier because the fight 
fans prefer a more cultured tone. An intonation pattern 
that is too racial seems to call attention to the tone and 
other phonetic variations rather than the thought. But Sam 
Taub suffers from want of crispness and sharp enunciation. 


On March 28, 1938, during the broadcast of the Ursell- 
Polika fight at a local club, some characteristic inaccuracies 
were recorded coming over the air in this fashion: 

"Center of the ring" becomes "Cenner of the ring"; "left 
to the body" becomes "lef to the body"; "coming back with 
a short uppercut" becomes "comin back wid a short upper- 
cut"; "just moves in there" becomes "jus moves in dere" ; 
"clinch" sounds like "kglintch." 

Whatever Sam lacks in precise speech, he atones for in 
his images. He strikes home with the suggestive phrase, the 
picturesque image, the trope which is immediately under- 
stood. For instance: "He works like a smooth and well-oiled 
machine ... he must have a pretty concrete jaw to stand 
those blows ... he is dodging a flurry of blows . . . Polika 
is a pretty good sharpshooter connecting with his target 
. . . Polika is praying for a knockout." 

Blunders in Fight land 

Radio chronicles abound in blunders in fight broadcast- 
ing. Sports announcers who make the greatest percentage 
of boners naturally broadcast without a script amid scenes 
of great excitement. The blood goes to the head. Judgment 
becomes ill-timed. Time and space become merely relative. 
The scene becomes merged into a composite picture of 
human flesh coalescing. Visualize such a situation as recently 
described over the air by a fight commentator: "The boys 
are in a corner slugging away at each other in the middle 
of the ring." 

In the Dempsey-Firpo fight of September 14, 1923, the 
announcer, carried away by the excitement of the fighters 
knocking each other down alternately, broke into a chant, 
"He's down, he's up, he's down . . ." That announcer was 
Major Andrew White. 

Graham McNamee, once the dean of all sports announcers, 


is used to taking it on the chin from the critics. In broad- 
casting the Baer-Carnera fight he inadvertently reported 
Baer as delivering a crushing uppercut to his own jaw. And 
a little later in the match he had Camera swinging at 
himself in a similarly destructive way. It was a short battle 
McNamee had to report a brief two rounds which, until 
the Louis-Schmeling debacle of June, 1938, was regarded as 
the most dramatic fight in fistic history. 

The broadcaster who lacks originality or is troubled about 
strengthening his verbal pictures should provide himself 
with a sheaf of appropriate images. It is often difficult to 
spring the right phrase on the spur of the moment, especially 
under the hectic conditions of the ring. Even the most 
hackneyed comparison is better than none. There are about 
two hundred sports writers in the press section during a 
championship bout and their reports lend comparative 
study. Subscribe to a clipping bureau and revel in the sports 
lingo and picturesque phrases unleashed by master column- 
ists like Joe Williams and Grantland Rice. Study them in 
advance for immediate use. Try these dozen culled from 
the daily press: "The blow was not a feeler, it was a cannon 
shot." "He goes haywire with his blows." "He found a flaw 
in his defensive armor." "He is springing on him with the 
instinct of the jungle." "Louis is continuing his blasting 
operations." "Max dropped like an anchor." "Blows with 
appalling lethal power." "He unleashed his double-barrelled 
barrage." "It is a one-sided slugging festival." "One great 
arm shot out like a piston rod." "It must have been like 
hailstones hitting him." "He was spread out like a carpet 

Critical Blows of the Listeners 

The man who reports the blow-by-blow account of a 
fight must be prepared to meet the critical blows of his 
audience at home. As the bell clangs at the end of the last 


round, comes the interview with the fighters. The announcer 
clambers toward the ropes carrying his microphone into the 
ring. The experienced broadcaster has learned to be wary 
of those whom he calls before the microphone. Joe Jacobs, 
manager of the German challenger, abused this privilege 
when, in lieu of Schmeling, he shouted into the microphone, 
"We wuz robbed!" 

Radio fans have learned to expect a panting post-fight 
statement from the winning battler. The announcer's task 
is to get into the ring before the winner is hurried to the 
dressing room. He has often to fight his way through a 
mass of police, photographers, pressmen and handlers and 
drag the mike to the fighter's corner, and at the same time 
keep up a running stream of comment so that the mike will 
not go "dead." Sometimes the invited one suddenly becomes 
dumb and the announcer must be prepared to cover for him. 

Networks and sponsors sought good men for such an 
important battle as the Louis-Schmeling bout held at the 
Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938. The choice fell on Clem 
McCarthy, specialist in blow-by-blow; and Ed Thorgersen, 
whose announcing was to provide the "color" and between- 
rounds commentary. Clem was the veteran; Ed had never 
before participated in a fight broadcast. 

Louis measured his man. Seven seconds elapsed before a 
blow was struck. The onslaught was swift and within two 
and a half minutes Louis battered Schmeling into uncon- 
sciousness with a relentless fusillade of lefts and rights. 

One should first consider the factual report of the battle 
as presented by James P. Dawson in the New York Times: 

"Three times under the impact of Louis' right hand the 
German hit the floor. The first time Schmeling regained his 
feet at the count of three, laboriously. The second time 
Schmeling was knocked down, he got up dazed and game, 
bounced up instinctively before the count had gone beyond 
one. On the third knockdown, Max Mahon, Schmeling's 


backer, hurled a towel into the ring European fashion 
admitting defeat for his man. The towel went sailing through 
the air when the count on the prostrate Max reached three." 

Referee Arthur Donovan, before he had a chance to pick 
up the count in unison with knockdown timekeeper Eddie 
Josephs, who was outside the ring, gathered the white em- 
blem in a ball and hurled it through the ropes. Returning 
to Schmeling's crumpled figure, Donovan took one look and 
signalled the end of the battle. The count at that time was 
five on the third knockdown. All this took place in two 
minutes and four seconds. Surely the sudden climax would 
test the most experienced broadcaster. 

The commentator must be prepared for any contingency. 
Here was a situation unique in the history of championship 
battles. Clem failed, to a degree, as the reporter, that was 
all. He seemed in his manner to be as much stunned and 
surprised as were the eighty thousand patrons whose roars 
were let out into the night air at the Yankee Stadium. It 
is an admirable thing to convey the excitement of the battle 
by breathy and excited tone, but this emotional touch must 
be matched with reportorial sense. On this occasion Clem 

His tongue, it is true, moved glibly. The screaming of the 
crowd was all the more reason for his eyes to be sharper. 
But throughout the pandemonium he was missing some of 
the vital drama. Clem failed to mention the towel of sur- 
render that had been thrown from Schmeling's corner. He 
failed to mention that Schmeling's trainer, Machon, climbed 
into the ring when the third knockdown punch landed and 
that Donovan pushed Machon back as the knockdown timer 
counted ". . . eight." Had Clem continued for a minute 
he might have completed the picture, but he called for his 
"color" announcer with a tone of relief, "Come in here and 
describe the scene, Ed." 

Some critics complained that Clem could not keep pace 


with the blows which Louis shot to the head, jaw and body 
of Schmeling. This is too exacting a demand. Twenty-nine 
vital blows were delivered by Louis with lightning rapidity. 
The German's feeble effort at retaliation was easy to report. 
The ex-champion got in exactly two right hand punches: 
one of them timidly short; the other blocked by Louis. The 
over-critical fan should try to report each blow for himself. 

The tale of the battle was told coherently enough: "Louis 
stabbed Max with a left jab . . . Louis then cracked him 
high at the temple ... a left to the head; a right . . . 
Schmeling is down. The count is three . . . and he's up. 
And it's a left to the jaw . . . Donovan is watching . . . 
Schmeling is down, down . . . the count is ... seven . . . 
eight . . . Max Schemling . . . Schmeling is beaten in one 

Paul Gallico, in his classic on sports, "Farewell to Sports," 
calls attention to the fight decisions that were so bad around 
New York for a time that a current gag was to imitate a 
fight broadcaster who announces in a crazily inconsistent 

"Ooooh, White is down again . . .He is up and stagger- 
ing around the ring ... he is bleeding. Oh, there goes 
White down again ... he gets up again but is helpless 
and Black batters him all over the ring. White is helpless 
... he is bleeding from cuts over both eyes and the nose. 
He goes down again ... he won't get up again ... he 
won't get up this time . . . White is out ... no ... the 
bell ending the final round saved him. The bell rang at the 
count of six. Poor White never stirred . . . Well, folks, 
here comes the official decision. Flash! White wins!" 


Football entered into the field of high finance when 
broadcasting took it under its wing. Many a college which 


found itself on the rocks during depression days turned to 
broadcasting like a foster-mother. The college had but to 
invest in a strong team. Radio could be relied on to spread 
its prestige far and wide. Many a son of Alma Mater was 
induced to make heavy donations to the endowment fund 
because through radio he followed the crowning successes 
of the football team. Funds poured into defunct college 
treasuries, new stadia dotted the land, and enrollment lists 
swelled. Today a meeting between topnotchers and unbeaten 
rivals will pack any stadium and monopolize the radio dial. 

From some curious sense of idealism, universities hesitate 
to offer their games for sponsorship. The first of the big 
games to be broadcast was the Princeton-Chicago meet of 
1932. It was not until 1937 that Yale University decided to 
sell its six home football games to a sponsor for the modest 
sum of twenty thousand dollars. From that time on, 
major college football teams went definitely "commercial." 
Colleges at last openly accepted the declaration of the 
Rockne- Anderson period of coaching at Notre Dame: "Give 
any college a good football team and three or four Saturdays 
a year of national broadcast games, and that college can 
declare dividends." 

It's a reminder of what a giant business football is in the 
United States. Some figures: American college football's 
total take in a bad year has never, in recent times, gone 
below forty million dollars. In 1936 the figure was over 
seventy-five million dollars. The major professional league 
games bring out over a million and a half spectators in 
nine cities. Attendance at three hundred and eighty-seven 
games at seventy-five representative colleges in 1937 totaled 
seven million seven hundred and fifty thousand. Fourteen 
colleges in 1937 built football stadiums that seat more than 
fifty thousand spectators each, four of them, eighty thousand 
and more. There is a potential weekly gate of one hundred 


thousand dollars to three hundred thousand dollars for each 
big game. 

Collegiate football has definitely gone commercial. Heard 
over seventy-five stations and voiced by over fifty-two play- 
by-play and commercial announcers and in addition to 
twenty-five spotters or observers, the Autumn plans of one 
sponsor include the complete home line-up of twenty-seven 
colleges located on the Eastern Seaboard from Massachusetts 
to Florida as far west as Columbus, Ohio. 

Princeton and Harvard are the standouts, and tradition- 
ally refuse to sell radio rights in order to aid their own 

Consider the extent of football broadcasting today. Strong 
teams with national ranking command national attention. 
Traditional rivals like Yale and Harvard and Army and 
Navy are always certain to command the airways. The foot- 
ball game crowds drama and entertainment into one, and 
affords distraction to millions of listeners. 

Nearly two thousand games are annually played on the 
gridirons of America; over sixteen million spectators lend 
their voices to cheer the players of over six hundred colleges. 
Each Saturday in the East alone fifteen or twenty games are 
on the air. 

Network broadcasting of football games is rapidly on the 
wane. The day of the Ted Husings and Graham McNamees 
as football announcers is nearly at end, according to Ted 
Husing himself. "We're the last of our clan," he prophesies. 
Local stations are taking over the broadcasts in their own 
territories and instead of one or two key voices among the 
big games of 1937 nearly a hundred breathless commentators 
were heard. 

Football represents a certain savagery of play. America 
lends an ear because the game stimulates the primitive sense 
of combativeness. The football stadium is the replica of a 
battle arena. There in the circumscribed space marked off 


by yards, eleven men in armor, with hard leather helmets, 
heavy cleated boots and shock protectors, face eleven other 
men similarly equipped. Men are deployed. They go into 
huddles. They charge at each other at full speed with 
strategy and complicated running. The game calls for exact- 
ing physical courage, and expressiveness. Above all, it 
demands a certain type of intelligence. 

Modern football games remain the most difficult of all 
sports to broadcast accurately. The work tests the co-ordina- 
tion of the trained observer. Many are called to try out for 
this work but few are chosen. The audition is a tell-tale 
which sharply exposes the lack of talent. During 1936, NBC 
went on a vain search for a new crop of material. The net- 
work assigned various applicants to describe the home games 
of the Fordham and NYU teams on recording machines. 
The records were played back later in the studies, but not 
one of the candidates tried out qualified for an announcer's 
post at a broadcast game. 

Football broadcasting, like the game itself, exacts much 
of the physical self. The game itself covers only sixty 
minutes, but the announcer, if working alone, is often 
obliged to talk for three and a half hours, almost without 
interruption, at the rate of two hundred words a minute. 
No wonder Ford Bond complained that after a football 
session at the microphone, his face muscles were so tired 
from talking that they ached for twenty-four hours. 

Each commentator in football has developed his own 
peculiar style and system. The objective is the same: to 
convey the drama of the game, to stir the imagination and 
to make the listener yell when the crowd in the stadium yells. 
One critic declares that such is the thrill of the game for 
actual spectators that football is the one great reason for 
television to hurry up so that fans may participate with 
their eyes. 

A fan once complained: "You ought to be ashamed: I 


caught the sound of joy in your voice when the touchdown 
was scored." The announcer need not put a damper on his 
enthusiasm. When the crowd is thrilled by a brilliant play, 
stimulate the listener in even greater measure. 

Ted Husing is a tried and true man in football broadcast- 
ing. Occasionally he mixes up the teams, and keeps skipping 
from figure to figure as to which down it is, and how many 
yards to go. But he manages to convey a vivid picture so that 
the listener understands what is going on. There is some- 
thing of a complete formula in his own analysis of his 

'Td really like to tell you what we have found the public 
wants, and how it ought to be done. But each man has a 
trick for intriguing listeners, and I hope I have mine. One 
thing I know is that football needs a recreation of each 
scene and a lot of fast chatter to tell about it. Each play 
presents these things where is the ball resting, how far 
out from the side of the field, who has possession of it, what 
down is it, who got it, how did he get it, what did he do 
with it in trying to mask it, was it a fake, a spin, a reverse, 
a buck, a crash, a shove, or what, where did it finally go, 
who led the interference, why was he hit, who hit him, 
who stopped the play, where did it stop, was it a good play, 
and then do it all over again, analyze the importance of the 
play, and then sit back and telephone Berlin for a chat with 
Hitler, bah!" 

The conscientious football broadcaster devotes consider- 
able preparation to the work, visiting camps far in advance 
of the event in order to absorb the atmosphere. He reads, 
crams, absorbs. Then there are interviews with the coaches 
and captains of the rival teams. About two hours before the 
game, the commentator goes over the situation with his 
"observers." Such research is of the highest importance. It 
gives that confidence without which a commentator seems 
lost for words and ideas. He dips into the store of his in- 


formation when the occasion arises. Instead of gaps, pauses, 
repetitions, the speaker commands every situation. The 
voice then takes on the tone of easy authority, which com- 
mands the listener. 

The "color announcer" must have enough fill-up material 
to keep talking entertainingly. Consider: i. the weather; 
2. the wealth; 3. the bands; 4. line-up; 5. coaches; 6. umpires; 
7. field judges; 8. celebrities present. 

Football broadcasting is too much of a task for any one 
man. It is almost an impossible task to build up each play 
to the split second. Most of the announcers call on the aid 
of at least three assistants in addition to the control engineer. 
The first assistant keeps a record of all plays for reference 
and review. The other two are extra "observers," each of 
whom is generally a detached member from the opposing 
teams. These are the extra "spotters" who are swift to catch 
the plays and who can instantly identify the members of 
their own teams. 

The engineer sits alongside the announcer and by manipu- 
lating the knobs of the control equipment, keeps the picture 
realistic. The "color" story is left to a special events an- 
nouncer. His task is to select those values in the scene that 
convey mass action in every mood. And here is where humor 
must be alive. 

Sound effects come to the rescue of many a humdrum 
recital of the announcer. The listener who has lost contact 
through dreary talk, suddenly is stirred by the cheer of the 
crowds, the rollicking songs of Alma Mater, and the march- 
ing melody of the bands. The networks generally have four 
pick-up mikes which are placed in front of the rival cheer- 
ing sections. The mikes are numbered and by a previously 
arranged signal system, the operator stands ready to switch 
the mikes on or off. No. 3 microphone may be in front of 
the Yale section. An injured man is being assisted from the 
field, the Yale cheering section has risen as one man and is 


giving him a tremendous hand. The announcer holds up 
three fingers and the operator switches on mike 3. The 
engineer's task is to see that the "color" comes through loud 
enough to be distinct, but not loud enough to drown out 
the commentator's voice. 

Through all the turmoil of the game the broadcaster and 
his assistants, as a rule, present a co-ordinated picture of 
what goes on before them. Their inaccuracies are unim- 
portant and must be overlooked. Paul Gallico, the veteran 
sports writer, pays tribute to the football announcer as the 
chief reliance of the average newspaper reporter present at 
the game. He says authoritatively: 

"Except for descriptive passages that come through view- 
ing the scene on the field, the manner in which scoring plays 
are executed, the football reporter may just as well sit down 
at home by his radio and prepare his report. It would greatly 
shock his managing editor and his public if it became 
widely known, but to all intents and purposes, he does it 
anyway, except that his radio happens to be located high 
on the rim of some concrete bowl or horseshoe, in a glass- 
enclosed pressbox if the game is in the Middle or Far West, 
or exposed to the elements if it is in the East." 

A commercial announcer handles the "plugs" spotted in 
non-play periods to reach the ear pleasantly. Blurbing that 
is repetitious and unrestrained is likely to fall on deaf ears. 
The commercials should never be thrust on the air during 
action on the field. 

Announcers never mention the no-hitter unless the hitless 
stretch is over, or until the game is over. The superstition 
holds that such mention prematurely will break the jinx. 

Shall It Be "Pigskin Lingo"? 

Less than ten per cent of radio listeners have any definite 
knowledge of the game. The uninitiated merely catch the 


drama of two forces pitted one against the other, in the 
struggle over a pigskin ball. The average dialer is not sitting 
before his radio pouring over a book on football rules. 

The problem in broadcasting is to determine how the 
game shall best be conveyed to the listener. Shall it be a 
series of technical explanations meant only for the initiate? 
Or shall the language and style of broadcasting be framed in 
simple terms that are easily understood by the average 
listener? There are those who are not partial to either 
method as long as there is variety and dramatic flavor to 
the description. 

Nationally famous coaches like Chick Meehan have been 
instrumental in developing a jargon which is foreign to the 
average person. There are hardly any synonyms or simple 
terms for football technicalities. Such terms as "fake," 
"lateral," "reverse," "spinner" are not wrapped in mystery 
by the expert. The average listener wants his game presented 
in understandable language. He has job enough getting 
entertainment from his radio. The announcer who wishes 
to command a large following avoids a terminology that 

Dramatic situations are conveyed by picturesque words 
and images. This gift for the use of the right word spells 
the success of many an announcer. Instead of saying, "Doakes 
is tackled by Smith," a more definite picture is presented 
by "Doakes is spilled by Smith." The game abounds in a 
specialized vocabulary which should be on the tip of the 

Two schools of broadcasting now flourish. One thrives in 
the Midwest, the other in the East, and each has its peculiar 
wrinkles. No one has yet ventured to explain how these re- 
gional variations crept into practice. The majority of Mid- 
western announcers are more precise. They wait until the 
play is complete before describing it. The Eastern an- 


noimcers are keyed up to speed. The announcer is right on 
top of the ball. He may thus be fooled by a trick ball. In 
such a case he must frankly contradict himself. 

The eastern technique is preferred, because background 
noises are appropriately blended and timed to the "talk." 
Parabolic microphones like huge searchlights pick up the 
roar of the crowd while the announcer tells what is going 
on. Under the midwestern plan there is danger that the 
listener wonders what is going on while he hears the roar of 
the crowd. 

Football Credo 

The ideal sports broadcaster has command of himself 
and of the scene at all times. There are some special con- 
siderations which apply to football which we here set down: 

1. Indicate the line-up with brief thumbnail sketches of 
the players, allowing for sufficient time for a balanced treat- 
ment of both sides. 

2. Endeavor to put the play on the air while it is hap- 
pening. A delayed description is apt to confuse the listening 
audience. The meaning of the yell on any climactic turn is 
totally lost if it comes while the previous play is being 

3. Concentrate on what you are saying, not the manner 
of saying it. An honest participation in the game will pro- 
vide words that have the appropriate zest and emotional 
touch. Most commentators grow nervous and repetitious. 
They suffer from the strain of keeping fresh. 

4. Establish a fixed point of view. Ford Bond advises 
that if you are placed on the south side of the field, give 
the listeners a layout of the field with the east goal and the 
west goal. This fixity keeps you from being confused and it 
makes it easier for the listeners to follow the action play, 
and to make a chart of the field if they desire. 

5. If you go "technical" you must be absolutely accurate 


every second. An analysis of defensive plays will lead you 
into the purely technical side of the game. 

6. The commentator must maintain an attitude of impar- 
tiality. He is the eye of the radio audience which represents 
a divided allegiance. Be polite to both sides no irony, no 

A listener to the broadcast of the Harvard-Princeton game 
objected to the announcer's repeated reference to "the 
Bengals" and "the cats" to describe the Princeton players 
on the ground that it made it difficult for one unfamiliar 
with such vague identification to follow the play. 

7. Suspense requires that the audience be intermittently 
reminded which team is ahead and by what margin. 

8. The trend is toward the technical report on plays. 
There are hardly any synonymous or simple terms for the 
football language like spinner, reverse through the line, 
lateral, and fake. But the judicious use of broad description 
will help to relieve the mass of technical phrasing so be- 
fuddling to those not versed in the lore. 

9. There are three types of blundering gridiron broad- 
casters. The first is the admittedly inexpert commentator 
who knows little or nothing about the game. The second is 
the "know-it-all" type who presents an inaccurate picture 
in the attempt to give the intimate details of every play 
and to pronounce criticism of players and officials. The 
third, and more common type is the "exaggerator." He pre- 
sents every scrimmage sensationally. The audience is led 
to believe that each game is a succession of thrills. He 
does not discriminate. Every dull play becomes vital, and 
climax is built up where there is none. One critic suggests 
that their manner is dictated by the fear that they or their 
stations might lose their audience for the afternoon, or 
for ensuing programs if an uninteresting game were pgr- 
trayed as it was played. 

The exaggerated style of announcing is called the "high 


style of gabbing." Variety criticized Tom Hanlon in a west- 
ern match: "It's all the same to him whether they're digging 
in under the goal posts or falling asleep in midfield." 

Headaches and Heartaches 

A conscientious broadcaster will visit the training camp 
and meet the players personally. Ten minutes of confidential 
talk with the coach will give the broadcaster plentiful dope. 
On the day of the game he will be at the scene of the game 
a few hours before the kick-off. In a final conference with 
the coaches of each side he will be advised as to any new 
formation and trick plays likely to be used. He will become 
familiar with the nicknames of the players and know which 
men especially to watch. It must be remembered from year 
to year the basic system of each coach remains the same 
except for a few names. 

Some announcers are prevented by the pressure of their 
studio assignments to get out and study the teams first- 
hand before the game. But they manage to read fully on the 
subject, and on the morning of the game do a lot of 

Husing is in his sixteenth year as a football announcer. 
His first football game was Penn-Cornell game of 1925. Ted 
used to take a two-week swing around the major camps be- 
fore each season. Now he has two scouts on the road gather- 
ing the data and impressions. When the opening whistle 
blows, Ted will have material on fifteen hundred different 
players of the squads that will see action during the season. 

Observers who know their men will be able to recognize a 
player even if he is covered with muck and slime. At least 
he will make a fairly accurate guess as to who it should be. 
He will be guided by the shift in his position, the manner 
in which he took the ball and by those peculiar quirks in 
football practice that only the specialist can sense. 


The Notre Dame-Navy game of 1937 was played in a 
blinding snowstorm. Bill Stern, the announcer, could hardly 
see the other side of the field and all the yard lines were 
covered up. The listeners are not interested in alibis. The 
announcers must be frank and see their reasons for not doing 
a good job. 

Often just an ankle strap, an extra wide piece of adhesive, 
a soiled helmet, the physique of the player, or a torn shirt 
helps in the identification. Ted Husing has developed a 
novel electric light annunciator. It is an electric device 
which locates each of the twenty-two players on a dial 
lighted up by a touch of the finger. The announcer watches 
the offensive line and the defensive backfield. His assistant 
looks through a powerful field glass mounted on a swivel. 
The lens is always on the ball controlled by a mere twist 
of the head. The moment the ball is put into play, the as- 
sistant presses the appropriate button. The dial box then 
lights up, and instantly furnishes the announcer with the 
name. In effect, the assistant furnishes the names, while the 
announcer is busy watching the plays. 

Three hours is a severe trial upon the eyesight, the voice 
and the brain co-ordination of any microphone speaker, 
especially a sports announcer. The best announcers become 
inaccurate as the hours pass. They even become subject to a 
slight aphasia and give the wrong names to the teams. The 
broadcasting booth, to make the work harder, is usually 
located on the far rim of the arena. 

Correct pronunciation of the players is important. A 
sports announcer who mispronounced the name of Alex 
Wojciechowicz, the Fordham All American center, got ten 
thousand letters from irate fans. 

The name of the player and action looms important in 
broadcasting. General reports are not sufficient. It is not 
enough to broadcast: "Alabama gains seven yards through 
tackle . . . California ran the left end for five yards . . . Ala- 


bama completed a fourteen yard pass . . ." The telephone 
of the broadcasting station will be ringing with complaints. 
The fan wants to know not only "whatswhat" but "who- 

Not every football game has its high dramatic lights. The 
announcer's prayer is that things do not become too hum- 
drum. Three long hours of monotonous calling of plays, 
the repetitious chant of "they're again in a huddle," "they're 
just coming out of a huddle," "now they're lining up," may 
suddenly be broken by drama or comedy. 

A last-minute touchdown of Notre Dame, a Fordham- 
NYU brawl on the field, a riot of Princeton students on 
the Yale bowl these are historic instances. Routine chatter 
suddenly swings into dramatic tonalities. The pace becomes 
swift and the descriptive touch more vivid. Luck may be 
kind to the announcer and provide him with plenty of ex- 
citement and diversions. But he must be equal to the occa- 
sion with diction and voice. 

A Final LQ. Test for the Football Broadcaster 

1. Do you know the game from A to Z? 

2. Have you a system to adequately prepare yourself for 
your broadcast? 

3. Can you translate rapid action into words and talk 
with "punch" for at least two hours? 

4. Do you know every play by name and number? 

5. Do you know the history of each player? 

6. Are you provided with a fund of human interest stories 
and football lore that can enchant the fan? 

7. Do you use the huddles, the quarters and time taken 
out to talk glibly and entertainingly? 

8. Can you pronounce each name correctly? 

9. Have you developed a system for the quick identifica- 
tion of the players? 


10. Does your speech indicate you have a "one-track" 
vocabulary, or is your diction varied? 

1 1 . Have you reliable observers who can tell when the 
coach has switched all the numbers of the players so that 
nobody will know who is playing in a brilliant attempt to 
confuse the opposition. 

12. Are you improving on your graphic style by running 
moving pictures of the game, while you make a running com- 
mentary for later analysis. Run the film slowly at first and 
gradually increase the tempo. 

The Smack of the Bat Heard 'Round the World 

Baseball is truly a national sport. Its stars are public 
heroes. Now thanks to radio, the smack of the bat can be 
heard 'round the world. 

In the days when Matthewson pitched, the scores were 
eagerly watched as they were chalked up on bulletin boards 
at the half-inning intervals. Radio with its immediate re- 
porting, made it possible for legions of listeners to follow 
the national game, play by play, in the comfort of their own 
homes. Baseball fought the intruder, Radio, with stubborn 
resistance. It was feared that broadcasting would sound the 
deathknell of the grandstand. Instead, radio repeated its 
old miracle. Fans stormed the gates of the stadium. Gate re- 
ceipts mounted. Interest in the game took on a revival and 
expansion. All this, of course, refers to the World Series and 
to the one all-star midseason game which is broadcast over 
the networks. Games in the regular schedule have never 
approached their wide audience. The World Series is con- 
sidered the prize commercial program of the year. Henry 
Ford was persuaded to sponsor the 1937 series at a cost of 
twenty-five thousand dollars. The Gillete Razor took over 
in 1938 and 1939. 

The ban on broadcasting is entirely lifted. Owners of the 


major league clubs were opposed for the most part to broad- 
casting games at home, but did not object to a play-by-play 
account when the teams are playing in other cities. Until 
1938, the Yankees, the Giants and the Dodgers had an inter- 
club agreement which strictly prohibited any microphone 
in the ball parks except for the openings games and the 
World Series. 

Radio's Toughest Sports Job 

The World Series went on the air for the first time in 
1926. Here was a chance to prove to the skeptics what radio 
could do in the ways of baseball reporting. The sports 
writer selected for the job failed dismally. Listeners com- 
plained that he mumbled and desecrated the English tongue. 
It was Graham McNamee who was called to the rescue in 
the second game of the Series. His precise and emphatic 
speech at once established baseball on radio, and made him 
famous as America's outstanding baseball commentator. 

Why do baseball announcers complain that baseball is 
difficult to broadcast? The game seems so easy to follow when 
one sits in the grandstand. But the spectator fails to notice 
the pauses in the game. These pauses are especially trying 
for the broadcaster. The good announcer fills these spaces 
with shrewd commentary, both factual and philosophical, 
that keeps the action moving. He culls a wealth of observa- 
tions from the scene. 

Baseball is not always a fascinating game to watch, nor 
does it always provide sensational moments for the stay-at- 
home. It has its day of dull exhibition when players are 
inert and the doldrums seem to settle over the ball park. 
But once let the fates be kind, and a hurricane of human 
energy and ingenuity will be set into action. 

The baseball fan is erudite. He knows all the "dope." 
Baseball fans "eat up statistics." The averages are com- 


puted to show the real power of the player at the plate. 
Yesterday's baseball here and today's successor live in the 
fan's experience. He knows the background of the players, 
where they came from before they arrived on "big time." 
He is familiar with the achievements of batter and pitcher. 
He knows coach and umpire. Millions who do not go to the 
game feed on the publicity in the newspapers. 

The listener's familiarity with his baseball family makes 
the announcer's task both more easy and more difficult. 
More easy, because the listener needs only the merest sug- 
gestion to visualize the action; more difficult, because the 
announcer must be possessed of a dramatic sense that never 

"Covering the series is radio's toughest sports job," says 
Ted Husing, "because you're talking to the world's largest 
expert audience. They'll call you on every error you make, 
so you've got to be right and be right the first time." 

Shall the Color Story Be Scripted? 

Some degree of formalism has been put into the "color" 
story before the game by announcers who read their scripts. 
During the series of 1936, Gabriel Heatter and Boake Car- 
ter were assigned by CBS to talk about the crowd and 
things in general before the game began. Both were supplied 
with typewritten scripts. 

The microphone has an uncanny way of revealing such 
practice. Listeners are more readily affected by colloquial 
speech than by the interlacing of colorful words which may 
not be on the tip of the tongue in moments of excitement. 
Many a listener suspects that the sidelights were written only 
a few minutes prior to the broadcast. The true test for the 
broadcaster lies in his spontaneity, his rapid-fire description. 
It is a gift. 

Gabriel Heatter justifies the use of prepared copy on sev- 


eral grounds. "I have a lot of sidelights," he said, "about 
the players and the game. Maybe I won't use more than a 
line or two of it or maybe I'll use it for the whole fifteen 
minutes before the game starts. We don't go on the air until 
both teams have finished practicing, all the preliminaries 
finished. All we have to watch are the ground keepers 
smoothing out the infield. In case nothing happens, fifteen 
minutes is a long time to fill and you're glad to have a script 
to fall back on, whether you use it or not." 

The easiest assignment for a color announcer is the open- 
ing game of the World Series in Washington. Here the an- 
nouncer can swing into a dramatic pace when the president 
arrives on the field. The color announcer in the opening 
game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia 
Athletics in 1938 was paced too slow. On paper, the words 
are descriptive enough: 

"We are looking at the presidential box now. He will 
come along in a moment. A host of camera men are standing 
by. They have a man sitting in for the president. All the 
photographers are getting their focus. A host of cameramen 
are standing by. Looks as if things are going to happen 
around here. Look at the bleachers out there. Umbrellas 
are up. Hope the Senators come through in fine style here. 
Depends on four or five pitchers. Then there are the Ath- 
letics. Several new faces. Rookies. Means that Connie Mack 
is trying out some new material. An aeroplane is hovering 
overhead. The secret service men are moving closer. A sign 
the president is coming. Here he comes. The car is moving 
down the first base line. There he is now . . . entering his 
box flanked by his military aides and his son, Jimmy. This 
is his sixth game . . . there he stands now with his famous 
smile . . . shedding the cares of State. Listen to that music . . . 
the United States Army band is in parade formation . . . 
marching ahead . . . followed by both teams ... in single 
file ... for the flag raising. . . . The crowd roars as the presi- 


dent winds up for the benefit of the photographers . . . there 
goes the ball ... it barely clears the heads of the battery 
of newspapermen in front of the box. . . . Play balll" 

"Baseball broadcasting," says Ted Husing, "is a 'soft' job 
compared to football. Why? Because there is less strained 
excitement and the voice is not so strained. Any play in 
football can become a scoring play. Not so in baseball?" 

A special play and the aspect for the spectator changes; 
he rejoices; he jeers; he becomes a howling critic. At such a 
time the announcer finds escape from humdrum recital. His 
task is to convey this new stir to the listener by properly 
feeding the imagination. 

The fans with unbridled hero worship expected Babe 
Ruth to perform. During his Big League lifetime, the Babe 
hit seven hundred and twenty-three home runs. He hit more 
than fifty home runs a season four times. No player has 
ever approached such a life time record. 

The listener expects performance just as does the spec- 
tator, but not every game can be heralded as a Babe Ruth 
classic. Hence, be not too hard on the commentator who 
must report a game that offers little in the way of tight 
situations or skills that make the fans exult. 

The pitcher winds up and lets go! "Strike!" you cry. You 
call the play for every ball pitched. Suddenly there is a sharp 
crack. The ball is hurled into the green and tan surface of 
the infield. The ball batter speeds hell-bent for first base. 
Your speech quickens as you report these movements. You 
follow the runner down to the first base and keep your eye 
on the ball. You are to report on the swift cooperation of 
infielder and first baseman. The infielder has swooped down 
on the ball and made a throw. 

The capable broadcaster can make dramatic situations 
tense for the listener. Consider the fan who sits at his dial. 
He waits on the announcer's every word. The summarizing 
will clinch the situation as it is at the moment. Two strikes 


and three balls; bases full; second half of ninth inning; 
score tied; partisans in the stands are letting out a long-drawn 
out and derisive "Booooo!" The batter does a little thinking. 
The pitcher staves a sizzler over the plate. Perhaps it is 
another King of Swat whose lifted bat consigns that ball 
beyond the flagpole in center field! 

Baseball is endlessly intriguing, full of individual duels 
and unexpected situations. Ordinarily the players and fans 
pay little attention to the complete lack of hits until five 
innings have passed. The game is full of surprises. The com- 
mentator is forced on the alert. It is these dramatic changes 
that saves football on the air from a dry-as-dust cataloguing 
of balls and strikes. 

Every play has a direct bearing on the outcome of the 
game. A stolen base, a hit or an error; a double play; miracu- 
lous throws to the home plate from the outfield or to a base 
movements performed with an amazing accuracy, swift- 
ness, rhythm and timing such is baseball! 

Styles in Baseball Broadcasting 

The baseball czar, Judge Keneshaw Mountain Landis once 
reserved the right to select the men who do the announcing, 
and even laid down rules as to their manner of delivery. He 
insisted on a correct play-by-play account, untouched by 
dramatics in voice nor colored by personal views. 

Some commentators develop a personal style that fans en- 
joy. Out of the wealth of his experience as a world Series 
broadcaster, Graham McNamee offers his individual philos- 
ophy of reporting: "I have developed the detailed style of 
reporting. I try to pack my broadcast with as many facts and 
incidents as possible to fill out the picture. If a pitcher stops 
and dusts his glove at a crucial moment or digs his cleat 
into the ground, that's drama and the fans ought to have it. 

"The things in the series that have given me the biggest 


kicks are passing moments, the brilliant flashes, which are 
often forgotten afterwards, a stolen base, a big batter fanned, 
an incredible put out, a feat performed by a player with 
all the odds against him. The unexpected and unpredictable 
which is always happening in the Series." 

The World Series of 1937 showed a tendency to calmer 
reporting. Baseball announcers used to pulsate in a voice of 
breathless excitement on every play. Announcers who rely 
on sensationally strained voice pitches cannot reach first 
base with their listeners. Such artificial dither grows mono- 
tonous and provides no balance for the ears. Only when 
genuine excitement sweeps the field, should the voice rise 
to emotional intensities. 

Many announcers suffer from over-enthusiasm in exag- 
gerating plays. An infield pop is magnified into a home run. 
Or an ordinary assist and put-out is voiced screamingly as 
if it were an event by itself. 

Another school of announcers dampen the brilliancy of 
every play by dull reporting and monotonous intonation. 

This is the era of the impartial announcer. The tendency 
to be over indulgent to the home-town fan must be checked. 
The first rule of sportsmanship is to give both sides an even 
break in reporting. 

With the exception of Tom Manning, who has been be- 
fore the baseball microphone since 1923, NBC announcers 
confine themselves to straight, factual accounts of the game. 
There is always the danger that factual reporting may be- 
come dull and colorless. Even straight reporting can be en- 
hanced by a lively conversational tone. The commentator 
should be very fast, on the top of every play. The calling of 
plays calls for a certain crispness and dispatch. There is 
such a thing as a monotonous drone making a game deader 
than it is by calling the plays with hollow indifference. 
Try saying "Str-i-ke Three!" as if it meant something. 

While the fan resents the flagrant highbrow, it is expected 


that the announcer use good diction. Ted Husing at times 
becomes too erudite. Bill Slater has a more polished and 
suave approach. It is all right for Connie Mack to refer to 
his team as AthEletics, and no one would holler about the 
extra syllable. The commentators who supply a liberal use 
of "dese, doze and dems," are fast disappearing. 

Two new announcers came on the scene in 1939. Experi- 
enced on local stations both Red Barbour and Arch Mc- 
Donald established themselves with fans on the networks in 
the New York area. 

Red Barbour was put under contract to General Mills 
which spends close to one million dollars sponsoring minor 
league broadcasts over ninety stations from Albany to San 

Barbour was born thirty-two years ago in Mississippi and 
raised in Florida. His first broadcasts were for the Brooklyn 
Dodgers (WOR). His speech is tinged with soft southern 
cadences that at once catch the listener. He uses idioms pe- 
culiar to himself. "The boys are tearing up the pea patch" 
means "teamwork is tops." "F.O.B." implies "the bases are 
loaded." Barbour's idiomatic salary is reputed to be twenty- 
five thousand dollars per year. 

Another newcomer to the New York area is thirty-seven- 
year-old Arch McDonald from Arkansas who reported the 
home games of the World Champion Yankees and the Giants 
over WABC for Wheaties, Mobiloil, and Ivory Soap. Arch 
was once a refrigerator salesman in Chattanooga, but seeing 
the baseball games interfered with business. He attracted a 
huge following as the "Ambassador of Sports," at Washing- 
ton's WJSV. He avoids the hackneyed idiom of the average 
announcer. With Arch, a pitcher is a pitcher and not a 
twirler; a catcher catches, and he does not do the "receiving 
chore." The lingo he uses is his own fresh from the dugout. 
Announcing a double play for instance, Arch is likely to re- 


port laconically, "Two dead birds." His fans know an easy 
play as a "can of corn," and a slow ball as "the set of dishes." 
A pitcher easy for a particular batter to hit is that batter's 
"cousin." A hard hitter "lays the wood to it," and base run- 
ners are "ducks on the pond." 

The 'Tween Innings Announcer 

Baseball reporting on the air was once considered strictly 
a one-man job. Today the commentator is joined by at least 
one "newspaper story" announcer who gives general descrip- 
tions before and after the game. The "observer" attached to 
the announcer does not actually observe and report the play 
as in football. His function is to keep track of statistical de- 
tail the number of times at the bat, putouts, assists, and the 

The arrangement of announcers varies. Two plans are in 
use. Two announcers may cooperate in the manner of a fight 
broadcast. The one may be called the "play-by-play" an- 
nouncer, the other the "between-innings" announcer. The 
"between innings" announcer summarizes the preceding in- 
ning, makes observations missed by his partner and manages 
to squeeze in the "commercials." 

In the second plan, two announcers are assigned to the 
baseball park. Both act as "play-by-play" commentators at 
the end of the fifth or sixth inning, the first announcer re- 
tires and gives way to the second. This relay arrangement 
allows for new blood at a time when the first announcer may 
begin to sag. A fresh voice has the tonic effect of reviving 
the listener. The play-by-play announcing is continuous. 

There is drama wrapped around that rawhide ball. The 
announcer must follow its every movement. The fan is 
self-trained in the process of visualization. All he needs is 
a verbal lift. The listener needs those factual aids that en- 
able him to picturize the speed of the ball, the peculiar 


quality of its delivery, where it passes, and what happens to 
it on the way to the catcher's mitt. 

The merest details take on importance as the game pro- 
gresses. The pitched ball that strikes the batter may change 
the course of empire. A catch that is fumbled may spell woe. 
A sprained ankle may prove calamitous. A left-handed 
pitcher in the box, or a left-handed batter at the plate pre- 
sents special problems. The stance at the plate is important. 
Joe di Maggio had a flat footed stance; Red Sox Manager 
Joe Cronin, a wide open stance. 

The listener is on the alert for these details to complete 
his judgment of events. The announcer therefore gives swift 
summaries of the performance of each player as he steps 
to the bat. In this way, the listener gets the sweep of the 
game backwards and forwards. 

As a rule, left handed batters have great success against 
right-handed pitchers because the ball curves in toward 
them. Conversely right handed batters have better success 
against left handed pitchers. 

Experienced announcers can usually tell what kind of 
ball is coming by the way the ball leaves the hand of a 
pitcher; whether it is going to be a curve or fast ball. But 
do not anticipate the umpire. You might get fooled. An um- 
pire is called upon to make from one hundred and seventy- 
five to three hundred decisions a game decisions that must 
be spontaneous, accurate, firm. 

The way to the baseball microphone is paved with the 
best intentions. The only training school for baseball an- 
nouncers is a microphone and the play on the diamond. 
The fact a man is a writer on sports or an ardent fan may 
give powerful assurance of success, but the test lies in actual 
oral performance. 

How can the aspiring baseball announcer get the practice? 
The problem is not an easy one. From the standpoint of 
continuity in reporting, it is simple enough to make quick 


notes of the action while it is going on. The next step would 
be to speak before a recording machine and translate the 
action into an authentic aural scene for the listener. Now 
you have your words engraven on the disc. Play it over, 
study your oral sense of baseball drama. Get some audience 
reaction in your own parlor. Try it on your dog anything 
to persuade your own sensibilities that you'd make a cap- 
able broadcaster equal to the best of them. At the Polo 
Grounds and the Yankee Stadium, the announcers sit in a 
little booth partitioned off at one end of the press box. 

The between-innings announcer adds those spicy little 
items that are of themselves interesting and outstanding; 
the sensational catches, the arguments, injuries, behavior and 
reactions of the crowds and the teams. Time out and change 
of pitchers represents invaluable minutes in which the an- 
nouncers can catch up and always add a spicy paragraph 
or two. Baseball runs on leisurely enough to give the 
announcer time to take in all details of a play. Trivial 
things loom important. Who picked the play? Why was an 
outfielder shifted? Was the last curve slow or fast? The an- 
nouncer must be on the alert. 

World Series announcers are under severe tension. They 
sit at their microphones with the air of grim earnestness and 
none of the gaiety of a spectator at a ball game. They must 
be keen to catch the plays accurately. A radio editor explains 
this tension thus: "A fan can be wrong about what he sees 
but not the announcer." 

The King of Sports 

Throughout the ages, racing has held the undisputed title 
of king of sports. Once the populace surged into the arena to 
see the chariots sweep around the course for the entertain- 
ment of the Caesars. Now millions, far and wide, tune in for 
the racing thrill that is denied them as actual spectators. A 


vicarious thrill it is, but it is nonetheless this thrill which 
commentators must convey. Horse racing, indeed, offers for 
the listener a concentrated excitement greater than that de- 
rived from any other sport. When men and women have 
money invested on a horse, no artificial stimulus to their 
imagination is required. 

Statisticians agree that the public's loss at the sixty thous- 
and handbooks exceeds one and a half billion dollars per 
year, with an additional loss covered by a three hundred 
million dollar loss at pari-mutuel tracks. 

The very briefness of a horse race makes it ideal for radio 
broadcasting. A baseball game lasts two hours, a boxing 
match an hour, a football game two and a half hours; but a 
horse race rarely takes more than two minutes in the actual 
running. Including picturesque details of the setting, the 
entire sequence of the race, course and finish can be en- 
compassed within the space of fifteen minutes. 

The racing commentator, during important races like the 
Derby, is put on his mettle more than the commentator in 
any other field of sports. This is because he is dealing with an 
audience sophisticated in racing lore. Thousands have been 
studying racing forms for months in anticipation of the race. 
From expert newspaper reports, they know all about the 
horses, the jockeys, the owners, the past performances, and 
a host of minor details. One slip, and the announcer is im- 
mediately raked over the coals by the fans. ''As accurate as 
a camera" is the way Bryan Fields describes those eyes of 
his which follow the horses. He has called the right horses 
in every camera finish. And that is a severe test for an 

/ Hear Them Calling 

A high degree of specialization is required in the broad- 
casting of racing events. In 1928 Graham McNamee tried 
his skill at several races for NBC. When the important Bel- 


mont Races came up, Graham was advised that he had better 
get some expert help for the event. When he asked an execu- 
tive on whom he could rely, he was told that Bryan Field, 
who was standing by was "as good as any." Thus Field 
was inducted as a commentator of horse racing. 

Bryan Field already had acquired his knowledge of horses 
as racing reporter for the New York Times. He had seen 
more than eighteen thousand races and could write with 
facility about every phase of the sport. He became master 
of the difficult art of "calling" which is essential for the turf 

"Calling" is placing the horses as they pass the various 
distance poles in a race, making known the relative posi- 
tion of the entrants one to the other. Without this gift for 
"placing," no one can perform a successful job of broad- 

"It is an instinctive combination of three items which 
makes a true 'caller'," explained Field. "You must know the 
silks, the mannerisms of each jockey, and the color, size and 
mannerisms of each horse. You eventually get so that the 
hunch of a jockey, the shape of a horse's head, its gait, 
enable you to identify immediately horse and jockey. Even 
if it comes up mud, as we say at the track, you still can call 
'em, despite the fact that their silks may be one gray smear 
of mud rather than any particular color." 

Bryan Field has a rival in Clem McCarthy, who knows 
his horses by their fetlocks. Clem's first big race on the Radio 
was the Kentucky Derby in which he announced Blue Lark- 
spur's victory. In 1931 he was sent to England to broadcast 
the Grand National Steeplechase, but the British did not use 
his talents. 

While not as intensely dramatic as McCarthy, Field holds 
the exciting pace in voice. The listener enjoys a human and 
refreshing touch at times. There came a moment in the 
Kentucky Derby when in trying to recall the position of the 


seven horses, Field momentarily forgot the California entry, 
Riskilus, in last place. He rattled off the six leaders and then 
trying to recall Riskilus, he said, "In last place is ... is ... 
what the hell is that other horse?" 

The usually steady Clem McCarthy succumbed to the ex- 
citement of the Seabiscuit-War Admiral race in 1938. For 
the last half he just kept yelling excitedly, "They're neck 
and neck," forgetting to mention where the horses were 
until just before the finish line. 

A classic event like the Santa Anita Sweepstakes or the 
Kentucky Derby requires at least three announcers, for a 
full, rounded commentary. The "opening announcer" gen- 
erally has the task of weaving the commercials into his in- 
troductory announcement. The "color" announcer seizes 
upon any aspect of the scene which will give a vivid picture 
to the listeners. The "technical" announcer calls the horses 
and follows the dramatic movement of the race. All their 
efforts are deftly co-ordinated to give a full picture of the 
race historical background of the race and the entries, 
weather and conditions of the track, betting odds, entry list 
or scratches, the order of post positions, interview with 
jockeys, owners, celebrities, and the details that comprise 
the dynamics of the event. To know how and when to inte- 
grate all these elements is a flexible art. 

The Kentucky Derby of 1937 displayed Clem McCarthy at 
his best. He filled the requirements of dramatic suspense, 
sharp eyesight, and a ready vocabulary spoken with appro- 
priate gusto. 

The "opening announcer" draws the curtain for the listen- 
ers: "This is Lyon Van reporting to you at the top of the 
booth at Louisville, Kentucky . . . today's broadcast comes 
to you through the courtesy of Raleigh . . . Kool Cigarette 
. . . the winner must have extra stamina to win that quarter 
mile ... it takes extra stamina . . .just what Raleigh gives 


you . . . but right now here is Charlie Lyons who will tell 
you what is going on below." 

The bugle blares to the call of "Boots and Saddles." The 
parade out of the paddock starts. Satin-coated horses 
mounted by jockeys in multi-colored silks are moving ahead. 
The band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home," and south- 
ern chivalry will be displaying itself at its best. 

The "color" announcer surveys the scene for the listener: 
"There are eighty thousand in the grand stands, thirty to 
forty in the fields . . . the weather is perfect . . . this year 
all is well . . . the sunshine's bright in Kentucky's home to- 
night . . . the track is in excellent condition . . . but I'll leave 
the technical description to Clem McCarthy . . . they're all 
here . . . Jack Dempsey . . . Governor Landon . . . let's 
get right down into the paddock and see what Clem will say." 

And here is where listeners are stirred by the throaty stac- 
cato of Clem McCarthy's "Thank you . . . thank you . . . 
here we are on the grandstand . . . now you can hear the 
bugle down there . . . they're calling them out . . ." 

Things do not always turn out smoothly. Often there is 
a delay at the post. High spirited thoroughbreds remain 
fractious even under the most powerful coaxing of the jock- 
eys. Minutes of anxiety pass eight minutes in the 1937 Ken- 
tucky Derby, which Clem broadcast. These minutes pulse 
with excitement. The horses are nervous, the crowd in the 
stands is nervous, and so should be the listeners. A skilled 
broadcaster knows how to convey this impression by descrip- 
tive touches and phrases that quicken the senses and mirror 
the cavorting of the horses. 

"Yes, they are behaving nobly . . . there they are . . . and 
War Admiral is just coming up ... and there is Melodist 
. . . and just now Sunset Trail 2d broke out . . . Merry 
Maker is taking a can . . . and Sunset Trail is a little bit 
fractious . . . Reaping Reward never looked better . . . he's 
not a big fellow . . . but he's a beautiful brown . . . Military 


has not yet taken his position . . . Pompoon is finally walk- 
ing to his stall . . . War Admiral is turning around in his 
stall ... as well behaved as War Admiral can be ... they'll 
be away in just a second . . . and it looks like an instant . . . 
War Admiral has just walked out of his stall . . . Bernard F. 
is cutting up just a little bit . . . this War Admiral is moving 
back through the gate . . . no, no, no ... still fractious . . . 
War Admiral is delaying the start . . . walking in and out 
of the barrier . . . Heel Fly is at it again ... I don't see why 
those horses don't get killed . . . back into your stall . . . War 
Admiral is rocking in and out ... ah, ah, Heel Fly is upset 
... I wouldn't be surprised if Gray Gold wouldn't turn a 
somersault . . . no, Heel Fly backed out again ... if the 
horses don't get set they'll have a hard time . . . War Ad- 
miral ... get steady . . . stand still . . . watch that Heel Fly 
... I can't see starter Hamilton . . . he's hiding . . . now 
Pompoon has taken to a little cutting up ... no change in 
any of the artists . . . War Admiral is a favorite . . . then 
Reaping Reward . . . THEY'RE OFF!" 

A tense two minutes ensues. Clem must keep a verbal 
pace with the horses neck to neck. "They are fighting on 
the lead . . . the horses round the course . . . War Admiral 
is setting the pace . . . Melodist is in fourth place . . . Heel 
Fly is driving hard . . . Melodist is up there in fourth place 
at the quarter mile . . . and Pompoon is slipping . . . Fairy 
Hill is second by a length . . . and now War Admiral leads 
. . . it's going to be a photographic finish ... an eyebrow 
finish . . . it's very close . . . it's War Admiral ..." 

The microphone is then turned over to the "color" an- 
nouncer. This is a breathing spell to provide a moment to 
get the official decision disclosed by the photographs as well 
as the official time. The assistant announcer "colors" the 
changing scenes at the paddock. His voice and manner by 
way of contrast must be relatively calm, after the hectic 
report of the race. 


Nice judgment is required as to the exact moment when 
the microphone is to be handed over to the "color" an- 
nouncer. All this is a matter of timing and evaluation of 
the complete picture of the race to be presented. 

At the Santa Anita races of 1937, Clem had as his color 
announcer Ken Carpenter. Toward the end of the broad- 
cast, Clem clinches his recital with a rapid summary. "But 
let's get Ken Carpenter in here," Clem is saying. "How about 
the rest of the picture?" The two commentators then enter 
into racy dialogue. This is a device to relieve the monotony 
of straight discourse. Significant details and highlights are 
disclosed, and the order of the winners repeated. "The gross 
was one hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars. The win- 
ner took ninety thousand seven hundred dollars. It cost 
each winner eleven thousand dollars," says Clem briskly as 
he leaves the sign-off to Carpenter. "We've had a tremendous 
day here at Santa Anita." 

Microphone Control 

In practice, the supervising engineer makes a preliminary 
survey of the track. He selects the best available vantage 
point for the commentator and his assistants. The com- 
mentator must have a clear view of the track, and the broad- 
casting apparatus is placed where least interference is en- 

The next step is the placement of lines between track 
and master control which includes one private talk line 
and radio lines for airing the program. These lines are free 
from all telephone communication and are run into the 
broadcast booth. The master control in the studio is then 
checked and the commentator awaits the signal to start. 

The timing of such a broadcast is almost perfect. With a 
wave of the hand, the control engineer directs the man at 
the microphone to start his patter. The bugle may be calling 


the horses to the post as the speaker begins his description 
of the parade. 

Veterans of race track broadcasting seldom experience any 
mike fright. Bryan Field admits laboring under a tension 
only when the horses are put into the respective stalls. 
Horses at the post require the most concentrated watching. 
It is this strain on the senses that makes racetrack reporting 
a difficult art, no matter how trained the expert. 

The broadcaster talks freely into a specially equipped 
microphone which he wears on his chest. Both hands are free 
to permit him to observe the progress of the race through 
binoculars. Once the horses are off the commentator swings 
into the second phase of his work. Calling the leaders in a 
race is not sufficient. The place, the style and manner of 
running, the duels for leadership in the home stretch all 
these are details of the picture which are filled in with mas- 
terful verbal strokes. 

Few experts are able to combine extensive knowledge 
with an ability to talk fast, naturally and colorfully. Rhet- 
orical devices are useful. Clem indulges in apostrophe, ad- 
dressing the horses familiarly: "Steady there! War Admiral, 
steady. Steady, old boy." 

The commentator presents the pattern of the race to the 
listener first as an artist close to the color, life and rhythm 
of the streaming pack of animals; next he is the factual re- 
porter conveying the swift progressive stages in the victory 
of a horse. 

Shall it Be British in Sports Broadcasting? 

Styles in broadcasting find reflection in national tempera- 
ment. In the field of sports, American and British broad- 
casting stand out in the same strong contrast as does the 
mode of speech and general characteristics of the people. 

Unrestraint is unbecoming to the British sense of stability. 


What is regarded by Americans as stodgy and slow satisfies 
the British tradition and poise. The British are altogether 
upset by American Sports broadcasters who aim to pour a 
volley of words into the microphone. 

Americans are inclined to ridicule British sports broad- 
casting as slow and stodgy. The British do not believe that 
the rapid attack of words must go on whether anything is 
happening or not. Most British sports announcers merely 
instance in their recital that national characteristic of the 
British microphone, "Reserve." 

The booming vocal method of our American sports an- 
nouncers which began with the advent of Graham McNamee, 
to the British ear represents an emotional imbalance in 
description. R. C. Lyle, who described the turf events of 
the British Broadcasting Corporation, speaks in a leisurely 
conversational and unimpassioned manner. In presenting a 
word picture of the running of the English Derby from the 
track at Epsom Downs, Mr. Lyle said, "There is nothing to 
worry about at the moment." His description of the track 
was typically British: "The course is about a mile and a half 
although we are not concerned with such details over here. 
I say 'about a mile/ It might be a hundred yards more or 
less. I doubt if anyone has ever taken the trouble to measure 
it or if anyone ever will." 

Let us be fair to the British announcers. Very often Amer- 
ican announcers get into a dither of excitement, and the 
listener later discovers that much has happened. English 
announcers by their very calmness, make the sports combat 
a matter for judicial appraisal. It takes much longer for a 
British announcer to make up his mind what has happened. 
He fills in time with general impressionistic terms. He is 
not chiefly concerned with a blow-by-blow treatment. His 
literary graces never leave him, on the theory that broad 
description presents a better picture to the listener. The 
heavyweight fight between Max Baer of California and 


Tommy Fair, the Welshman, in May 1937, reached Ameri- 
can listeners by short wave. The broadcast was a striking 
example of the divergent method of American and British 
sports announcing. For purposes of record, here are choice 
passages heard by American listeners from Harringay Arena 
in London: 

"Baer comes into the ring but he doesn't shake hands 
with himself." "They are just playing ping pong now." 
And when Baer seemed angry: "Baer is rawther exercised 
just now." "Now they're hugging each other in the center." 
"Baer is flicking his nose and well he might." At the finish 
came this morsel, "Farr is bleeding very nicely." 

Or these: "Baer is standing up like a lighthouse. The 
scene shifts and Baer is back in his corner. It would really 
appear that Farr was out to strangle him. Baer is winking 
at him in gentle reproof. He is a real comedian, this Baer. 

"Baer is grinning, although it is difficult to tell what he 
is grinning about, as Farr definitely has the edge. The Amer- 
ican seems to be doing most of the leading with his nose. 
Farr's keen as mustard, full of initiative and courage. Baer's 
eye is closing, his face is bleeding . . . There were four 
beautiful punches by Farr, flicker, flicker, flicker . . . Baer's 
got his back to me like a great barn door . . . now he's turned 
around . . . Baer is so handsome and rather truculent but 
looks the least bit pensive . . . you can hear the roar of the 
crowd, like an ocean wave, every time Farr hits him." 

Finally the announcer, with a casualness that no one but 
an Englishman can understand, announced Farr the winner, 
in some such words, "Every Englishman must be proud of 
him for it was an exhibition of pure English boxing." 

An American listener satirically declared that he opined 
the fight was merely a game of tag for very few punches 
were called. The broadcaster sounded as if he were anxious 
to get away for his cup of tea. 

The dignity of British sports broadcasting is in the hands 


of the BBC, which does not trust itself to "that shocking 
American accent." Britannia's air waves were represented 
at the Louis-Schmeling fight of 1938 by a special British 
commentator. During the 1937 Olympic ice hockey games 
at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the British assigned Robert 
Bowman, a young Canadian whose virtues seemed unknown 
to them at the time, although he had been an announcer 
for eighteen months. He had all the gusto and mounting 
verbal climaxes of the American announcer, piling on such 
phrases as "Here we are folks, huddled right down in the 
clear, brisk, cold waiting for . . . oh, boy, what a shot! what 
a shot! ... I wish you could have seen it, folks." 

That was the last of Robert Bowman. A flood of letters 
complaining about the American accent poured into Broad- 
casting House in London. Bowman was gently put off the 
air, and the order went forth that thereafter announcers 
were to maintain the official BBC manner of sports por- 
trayal free from emotional sway, impersonal, contained. 

Our sports broadcasts have nevertheless won praise from a 
section of the British public. Collie Knox, radio editor of 
the London Daily Mail, grew enthusiastic about the airing 
of the Kentucky Derby by Clem McCarthy, and in a special 
article he said: "The broadcast of the Kentucky Derby de- 
pressed me. It depressed me because it was so perfectly done. 
The commentators had pep, humor and knowledge. They 
made the race live. Now ask me why we cannot get such 
broadcasters over here. Or rather why we don't. It must be 
some form of national repression." 

British fight announcers have much more latitude than 
is the American practice. During the progress of the fight, 
they freely voice their opinions as to who is winning and 
they may also criticize the mode of fighting. American an- 
nouncers express no v opinions that being the duty of ap- 
pointed referees and judges. 



DISCOVERY of powerful value of the microphone for 
political speakers was not made until the Democratic 
Convention of 1932. The instrument had found a master in 
Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt, a new and friendly voice, 
tinged with the sincerity of colloquial phrases that captured 
the ears of the nation, was swept into public office and 
earned the soubriquet of "Radio President." 

The G.O.P. Convention in 1924 was a mild affair com- 
pared with the prolonged session which nominated Gov- 
ernor Cox at Madison Square Garden. It was the era of the 
goose-necked horns when radio was in its squeaking infancy. 
Then came the period of Al Smith's showmanship before 
the "pie-plate" as he dubbed the microphone. 

The Smith voice was that of a fighter, explosive, harsh, 
yet not enough to be exceedingly disagreeable. His raspy 
quality was modified by a great sense of humor. The chuckle 
lurked behind the sentences and foretold the approach of a 
good-natured or humorous point. The "happy-warrior" voice 
was confident, aggressive, and chuck full of unpolished words 
hitherto unheard of in rad-dio. 

Only a few were privileged to listen to the proceedings 
of a presidential convention. On his 1923 tour into the West, 
Harding spoke through the Denunciator" as the microphone 
was then called. The "new-fangled telephone" crippled his 
style of oratory and politicians advised him to throw it 
aside. But amplified oratory came to stay. Through head- 
phone, the unseen audience listened to President Wilson, 
but by that time improved transmission enabled them to hear 
the voice of Coolidge as well. Today the ears of the nation 



can instantly catch the proceedings of a presidential con- 

Less than twenty stations were linked when Coolidge was 
named for office but Coolidge was far from being "Silent 
Cal" before the microphone. By 1936 the proceedings of the 
convention which nominated Governor Landon of Kansas 
were carried from Maine to Honolulu through the use of 
over two hundred transmitters. During six and a half years 
in the White House Mr. Coolidge engaged in thirty-seven 

Herbert Hoover faced the microphone ninety-five times 
during his four years of incumbency. His voice was typical 
of the engineer. The microphone betrayed deliberate effort. 
But the importance of what a president says insures a large 
listening audience, no matter what the quality of his radio 
delivery. In that respect he has an advantage over his op- 
ponent. The timbre of the Hoover voice was a trifle heavy. 
The broadcasters called it "the voice of a man who does not 
like to talk." His manner of monotoned speaking showed 
great positiveness, even stubbornness. President Roosevelt 
exceeded the record established by any of his predecessors 
in office. 

It was predicted that radio would bring about a com- 
plete change in vocal technique for political speakers. The 
hope is far too sanguine. Human nature is not easily trans- 
formed by a mechanical device like the microphone. The 
instincts for unbridled expression and for flamboyant ora- 
tory are deep in the human conscience. 

Alfred Landon himself admitted some two years later re- 
flectively in the New York Times that the G.O.P. furnished 
him with a voice instructor to spruce up his radio delivery. 
"But I had little time," he complained "in the unremitting 
pressure upon me for practice. There was some concern 
about my radio delivery in comparison with Franklin Roose- 
velt's. The White House is primarily an executive office not 


a broadcasting station. There are different accents in dif- 
ferent sections of the country. Mine was a western accent, 
that of the environment in which I was reared. Mr. Roose- 
velt's ability appeared one night when I heard him say 'war' 
with the New York accent which made it 'waw' to western 
ears, and then change to 'War-r' with a sturdy Y the next 
time he used the word." 

Listeners noticed that Landon's voice was inclined to fade 
during a broadcast. This was because he had a habit of 
swaying from side to side, which took him out of range of 
the microphone. A special stand was built for him in order 
to enable him to keep a steady position in relation to the 
mike. He regarded his speaking problem seriously, and had 
his speeches recorded in rehearsal before going on the air 
so that he could check them for imperfections. 

In common with many political speakers Governor Lan- 
don's main difficulty was his lack of precision and articula- 
tion. He did not sound clear and reached the ear as a 
monotonous jumble. He put the emphasis on the wrong 
words, phrased poorly, and lost the rhythm of speech which 
indicates the man who speaks, knows and believes what he 
is saying. A speech correctionist would recommend that he 
have records made of his own speeches, and this would 
enable him to pick the flaws in his own style. He would 
notice that he speaks with the back of his tongue in his 
jaws giving a rasping manner to the pronunciation of "r." 

In 1936 the G.O.P. innerguard hoped they could find a 
candidate who would vie with Roosevelt as a speaker. They 
accepted Governor Landon, whose homely appeal, it was 
hoped, would make up for his lack of diction, but Landon 
suffered severely by comparison, and his stumbling and 
inept phrasing did him scant justice. No use of minimizing 
the effects of voice on the electorate. After Landon's weak 
and unimaginative speech of acceptance at Topeka, the 
polls showed his steady decline. 


"His jerkiness, lack of variety and very long phrasing all 
indicate self-consciousness. Landon sounds as if he is just 
reading strings of words. If it is stage fright, Mr. Landon 
should get over it. After all, he is running for president of 
the United States. His faults could be eliminated by training. 

"The speech of the Socialist candidate, Norman Thomas, 
is not bad, but it is a little tense and unsteady. Sometimes 
his emotions seem to get the upper hand. I should think he 
would have a sore throat after talking a while. 

"Earl Browder, the communist candidate, has one thing in 
common with his fellow-Kansan, Governor Landon, if noth- 
ing else. That is the mid-western nasality which is not con- 
fined to Kansas. Frequently, Mr. Browder sounds like a 
pedagogue trying to make everything very clear to his class 
of little children by speaking in simple words of one syl- 
lable. He should give his audience credit for somewhat 
higher intelligence. It detracts from his effectiveness." 

Radio established Huey Long as a voice of great authority. 
In his own state he had already captured the three functions 
of government. The North had been misled into believing 
his voice that of a clown. It simply missed his power and 
talent of mass appeal. Raymond Gram Swing regarded him 
as a forerunner of American fascism. Some regarded the 
Kingfish the best political radio speaker, better than Presi- 
dent Roosevelt. "Give him time on the air," said the publi- 
cist "and let him have a campaign in each state, and he can 
sweep the country. He is one of the most persuasive men 

His enemies called him the "Mouth of the Mississippi." 
Few politicians had a tongue so barbed and ready with in- 
vective, shrieking adjectives, roaring like a bull. On occasion, 
over his own state station WDSU he used the microphone 
three hours at a time. His special gift was ad libbing, falling 
back into his own after tearing up his prepared script. 

An assassin's bullet laid him low and checked the dema- 


gogue. His style was simple and direct in the vernacular of 
the uneducated man. With a vulgar touch, he was par ex- 
cellence a "man of the people." Lest any late listener might 
be in doubt as to his identity he had the habit of repeating 
at frequent intervals: "This is Huey Long speaking." "This 
is Huey Long reading to you from the Bible." And then he 
would go on preaching his "Share the Wealth Doctrine." 
Huey Long intended to use Radio to build up a nation 
wide political machine. 

The microphone has at least brought about some changes 
from old time practices. In the older days, the candidate 
would journey around the country, making as many as 
twenty speeches a day in tank towns. The speech usually 
was the same for each locality. The big speeches were re- 
served for the big cities. Today candidates make fewer 
speeches and save them for important occasions. Sometimes 
the talk delivered before a local audience is not designed 
for local conception but is framed rather for radio listeners. 

Radio has reduced the oratory of the convention to almost 
negligent importance. The convention orator at one time 
lent powerful influence to nomination of candidates. The 
Democratic Convention of 1896 was a classic example of 
what sheer oratory can accomplish. The "Thou shalt not 
crucify us on a cross of gold" speech lifted William Jennings 
Bryan into the candidacy. 

In many respects the nominating conventions of 1940 did 
not differ widely from those in the past. History records the 
uproar and the demonstration of the delegates who nomi- 
nated Lincoln in 1860. Radio has increased the tendency 
towards stage celebration. Convention oratory is designed 
for radio consumption since most of the talking has already 
been privately finished in smoke-filled conference rooms. 

The public is becoming aware that any convention demon- 
stration is about ten per cent spontaneous, ninety per cent 
forced, with the addition of the big pipe organ that alter- 


nates with the band and fills the convention hall with its 
cacophonies. Daylight sessions are dull. The galleries are 
empty. Night sessions are all pepped up and the gallery is 
jammed. To many listeners the Convention Hall seemed 
to be a vacuum filled with words. 

President Harding was the first chief executive to take 
radio along on a train trip. That was in 1923. The micro- 
phone always irked President Harding. He had to abandon 
his habit of walking up and down the platform, and some- 
how he lost personal contact when he ignored the visible 
audience for the sake of that imponderable unseen audience. 

Radio is responsible for the decline and prolongation of 
convention oratory. Such a sentiment was uttered in his 
dying moments by Godfrey G. Gloom, that aged Jeffersonian 
creation of Elmer Davis who was struck by an automobile 
after leaving the Convention Hall. "As for the radio, its 
demoralizing effect on convention oratory is well known. If 
it had taken the roaring out of oratory it could well be com- 
mended, but it has merely taken out the spontaneity and left 
all the roars in, with the sole qualification that the roarer 
has to take the proper stance so that he can roar into the 

The microphone has its limitations in presenting the true 
feeling and atmosphere that surrounds the speaker. The 
speech may be nothing more than a wild bellow in the hall. 
Over the microphone it becomes detached from the other 
sounds of which the voice is properly a part. 

The Fireside Chat 

There are some who say that Franklin D. Roosevelt won 
his spurs before the microphone at the right time in history. 
His voice came with soothing power at a time when the air 
was filled with voices whose raucous prophesies did not 
match their political wisdom. 


It was by his fireside chats that the President established 
himself as one of the finest political speakers of modern 
times. The term, "fireside chat," was coined by the news- 
papers and adapted by the broadcasting stations. The term 
conveniently describes that type of address in which the 
president takes the people into his confidence and discusses 
the vital problems of the country. While it carries with it 
the implication that the speech is casual and impromptu, 
the president's words have had the deepest thought and 
planning. The term caught the public's fancy, and it is 
probably here to stay. The chats are looked upon by the 
public as important news events. The president it is as- 
sumed has something important to say else he would not 
go on the air. 

The words of salutation of other presidents had always 
been, "My Countrymen," or "Fellow Citizens." President 
Roosevelt salutes his audience as "My Friends," and the in- 
tonation of these two words became to American ears a 
standard phrase for imitation. No. i Fireside Chat was the 
talk on the banking moratorium, of March 12, 1933, eight 
days after assuming office. The scene was the Oval Room 
of the White House. 

The president talks to the people in language easily un- 
derstood. He tells them what he is trying to do. He urges 
them to be calm. Families are listening in, nearly two-thirds 
of the seventeen million radio homes in the United States. 
His friendly and agreeable tonality frees their minds from 
suspicion, makes them open-minded and makes them anxious 
to listen. 

Hitler would never consent to speak into a microphone 
in the quiet of the studio. He feeds on the plaudits and the 
"Heils!" of the mob before his eyes. Before the microphone 
in public places, Hitler never loses his theatrical gesture. 
He impounds the air with his fists as well as his voice. 

One critic said of Roosevelt that during his fireside chats 


you get the feeling that he is talking and toasting marsh- 
mallows at the same time. The president sometimes speaks 
with warmth and passion and deep sincerity. His over 
genial tones of the fireside chat change to tones of invec- 
tive. There are occasional lapses into frankness that are 
uncommon in formal addresses. On one occasion, Presi- 
dent Roosevelt interrupted himself to ask, "Where's that 
glass of water? It is a very hot evening in Washington, my 
friends." He welds argument with the strong blows of the 
crusader. Franklin D. Roosevelt has not lost any of his old 
mastery. Perhaps he is better than ever. His acceptance 
speech at Franklin Field displayed him at his best. His words 
were tinged with earnestness and zeal. He was letting him- 
self go before the crowds as his heart felt. "This generation 
of America has a rendezvous with destiny!" he cried out. 

The man seemed transfused with new spirit. This was 
earnest oratory relieved from all tricks of voice. It was grim 
and determinate but missed none of that gift of communica- 
tion which is peculiarly the president's own: 

"Governments can err presidents do make mistakes but 
the immortal Dante tells us divine justice weighs the sins 
of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in 
different scales. 

"In the days to come when the almost perfect state has 
been established, there will be, I suppose, some sort of in- 
ferno for all who gave any sort of aid and comfort to the 
perpetuation of the old order, even through modification. 
But I hope that in that region, there may range a proletarian 
Gungha Din to give a swig to the lad who did not altogether 
let Groton get him." 

Like a showman Roosevelt knows the value of timing, 
and all the devices of the public speaker. During pro- 
longed applause, he will often begin to talk while the 
demonstration is at its height, then pause for additional ap- 
plause and repeat the phrase that was drowned by applause. 


He avoids the blunder of many speakers in turning away 
from a microphone when addressing a visible audience. Even 
before the mike he gestures freely with a characteristic 
manner of using his jaw and his right hand. He puts extra- 
ordinary emphasis on words, lifts a little particle like "now" 
with compelling effect. "Now" may usher in vital proposals 
for the listener. 

General Hugh S. Johnson was not much impressed with 
Roosevelt's radio voice. He said: "It is a clear tenor with a 
fine Harvard accent, but not nearly so pleasing as ninety- 
nine out of a hundred radio announcers' voices. Further- 
more, there are millions of the masculine persuasion, es- 
pecially in the wide-open spaces, who don't like musical 
male voices in the upper register and who favor Harvard 
accents still less. Even Bing Crosby's crooning gives them 
faint fits of nausea". 

Summing up the virtues of Roosevelt's speech personality. 
In the first place his articulation is precise, his speech free 
from provincialisms representative of the North Atlantic 
section of the United States. His use of pitch or melody is 
varied. It corresponds to the meaning he wishes to convey. 
He also shows an aptitude for marked variations in loud- 
ness for emphasis. He knows how to prolong the accented 
syllables of important words and to subordinate unimportant 
ideas. All these factors are related to rhythm. Roosevelt's use 
of vocal prolongation makes his speech agreeable. 

Advice to the Politician 

1 . Restore to the convention a background which is stimu- 
lating. Revive its original purpose which was to offer to the 
delegates of the states an opportunity for debate. 

2. Practice restraint. The speaker who was accustomed to 
rant and rely on hokum must chain his impulses. Hokum is 
an old vaudeville term and means a sure fire hit. Perhaps 


this will impose a tremendous task on the speaker. It will 
not be easy for him to pipe down, nor can he easily dis- 
cover for himself by listening to his own record just how 
the most appalling blasts of his own voice make him his own 

3. The political speaker is far safer if he builds up a bul- 
wark of facts and proof in simple language rather than or- 
nate phraseology, big words, and a sentence structure too 
involved. He will have to work harder on his material to 
build up common-sense appeal rather than rely upon the 
richness or the vigor of his voice. There was blunt strength 
in Al Smith's use of slang: "It was 'duck soup' for them." 
"They had it in the ash can." Alfred Smith at his best is 
very persuasive. His power lay in the ability to use the com- 
mon man's language more vividly than any other American 
politician. He has extraordinary good sense and salty humor. 

Raymond Clapper, observer on the scene with the Scripps- 
Howard newspapers during the two conventions of 1936, 
found that there was not a single new thought generated 
during the entire period: "All the stagnant, weary words 
that had fallen from the lips of men throughout the ages 
were gathered and hurled at the convention." Listeners get 
the notion that the speaker expects to lift them off their 
feet. Climactic sentences catapult one upon the other and 
brave words explode like the unceasing firing of a 77 milli- 
meter gun. 

4. Select key speakers who can intelligently use their 
voices. The key-noter ought to be able to pronounce words 
of more than two syllables without hesitation. 

Another important problem is the limit there is to human 
endurance. How long can listeners stand speeches? An hour's 
talk is disruptive to the spirit. Fifteen minutes seems to be 
ideal. Governor Stassen delivered his keynote speech in 1936 
in one hour, nine minutes and ten seconds. Speaker Bank- 
head, the Democratic keynoter, spoke forty-eight minutes, 


and Senator Barkley, the Democratic permanent chairman 
consumed one hour, eight minutes, fifty seconds of radio 
time in addition to a wild twenty-minute demonstration 
which he set off during his speech. Ye gods, does it amaze 
you? Fifty-seven speeches were made by the orators second- 
ing the nomination of F. D. R. and this talkathon repre- 
sented every state in the union. 

The answer to such unbridled passion in the air? 

5. Cut down the speeches to a maximum of fifteen minutes 
for each speaker if the speech is to be aired. "Streamline" 
the Convention and reduce the key-note speeches and favor- 
ite song ballyhoo to a minimum. Ruth Bryan Owen made a 
signal seconding speech for Roosevelt at Philadelphia in 
contrast to the rest because she did it in some thirty-five 
seconds. That gift for brevity is a lovely thing in a woman 
and in a diplomat. Indeed, it has seemed to me that public 
women far excel the men in making speeches short and 
snappy. "The ideal convention speech which broadcasters 
hold up as a perfect specimen of good broadcasting is the 
one made by Frank Murphy, then Governor General of the 
Philippines, who said 'Mr. Chairman, the Philippine Islands 
gratefully second the nomination of Franklin Delano Roose- 
velt.' That brief declaration brought a thunderous round 
of applause; it mirrored the delegates' approval of short 

At the Republican Convention, the seconding speeches 
were limited to three minutes. As soon as the exuberant 
speaker went beyond the allotted time, the audience yelled 
at him to stop. The listener at home can cut the speaker off 
summarily by a turn of the dial. 

The New "Pause Interpreter" 

The Convention Hall has now become the theater of the 
American political show. The speaker's dais is not the only 


place from which speeches are broadcast. Several innova- 
tions in broadcasting were introduced during the conven- 
tions of 1936. The first of these was the use of a micro-wave 
transmitter no larger than a cigar box. Announcers walked 
through the crowd and the words of the speaker, wherever 
he may be, or whatever the carrying power of his voice, 
could be flashed with a master-control panel for relay to the 
networks. Thus it was, according to one critic, that an- 
nouncers scouted around to discover minor politicians of 
all degrees and shove the microphone against their whiskers 
inviting them to bray. 

There was also brought into being a new species of an- 
nouncing known as the "pause interpreter." Very aptly he 
was called by this name. In previous contentions long 
pauses or breaks in the proceedings left the radio audience 
completely ignorant of what was going on and thus destroyed 
the sense of continuity. The "pause interpreter" was vested 
with wide duties which tested his ability to describe the 
scene, to interpret events, to interview political celebrities 
and present a well-rounded picture of the demonstrations. 
NBC assigned over one hundred of their best announcers 
and political experts, including William Hard, Lowell 
Thomas and Edwin C. Hill. 

Useless Advice The Politician 

Caesar Saerchinger, who in 1931 was the first to persuade 
George Bernard Shaw to broadcast to America, quotes an 
interview he had with the Irish sage. 

"The microphone is the most wonderful telltale in the 
world. If you speak insincerely to a political audience, the 
more insincere you are, the more hopelessly you are away 
from the facts of life, the more they are delighted. But if 
you try that on the microphone, it gives you away instantly. 


You hear the political ranter you hear that his platitudes 
mean nothing, and that he does not believe them." 

How then shall the speaker achieve that sincerity which 
has become associated with effective microphone speech? 
Here the criticism of a good voice teacher can be of use to 
him. The speaker can be made to realize that if he uses 
restraint the listener will get the feeling that he is going 
to be presented with fact and argument rather than with 
platitudes and dogmatic bellowing. 

Heywood Broun recommended, "I hate to pass up local 
talent, but if there is such a thing as a school in which our 
political speakers could go to learn ease and diction I would 
certainly place Leslie Howard at the head of the institution." 

Even Herbert Hoover was not loath to employ Professor 
Richard Borden of New York University as personal speech 
professor. Soon after Herbert Hoover left the White House 
his microphone technique began to improve. He is said to 
have called afternoon rehearsal sessions before appearing on 
the air and elaborate preparations for his radio speech that 
would establish a good precedent for the politician. His 
fumbling and uncertain delivery used to give his admirers 
the jitters. Mr. Hoover seems to have been wrapped at birth 
in a cobweb of awkwardness. 

In the quiet of the home there is opportunity to reflect, 
to measure things undisturbed by the clamor of the crowd, 
the blare of bands, mass demonstrations, and the circus ad- 
juncts of the meeting hall. The listener is inclined to accept 
bombast and exploded phrases as mere entertainment. He 
can sit back and laugh or tune off. He would as lief be 
listening to Rudy Vallee. A section of the listening public 
sent strong protests to the broadcasting companies complain- 
ing that their favorite program had been cancelled to make 
way for talk. 

Conceive of the deluge of phrases that the G.O.P. con- 
vention slung over the air: "We need a man to steer the 


ship of state who has the wisdom of Solomon . . ." "The dy- 
nastic danger of a third-term president ..." "Brutalitarians 
abroad . . ." "Alien ideologies cannot take root, and Trojan 
Horses no pasturage ..." "The battle we must wage to win 
back the democracy from the kidnappers in Washington." 

Gilbert Chesterton reminds the politician that the word 
Microphone is the Greek for the "little noise" and it is 
really true that it is not very suitable to the "Big Noise." 
A wireless official recently whispered to me the awful secret 
that he did not think any of our chief platform politicians, 
could really broadcast at all. And that is because they are 
in their very nature, the Big Noises." 

One of the worst offenders is Senator Arthur Vandenberg 
of Michigan whose huge bellowings branded with hokum 
were accepted as vaudeville by large numbers of listeners. 
Such a speaker should be made to practice restraint by pre- 
paring for his dramatic punches with periods of quieter 
tone. The effect of even a brief pause will make words sig- 
nificant. Single ideas will stand out with clarity if they are 
accented, but if this accent is too liberally distributed, true 
emphasis is destroyed. 

This form of intonation pattern might be called the 
political intonation. Such intonations result from habitual 
inflections, whether it be up, down, or circumflex. The col- 
loquial and natural rhythms of speaking are destroyed by a 
false melody that represents speaking at its worst. Sometimes 
it is a kind of vocal eruption. It rises to great pitch and 
swings into grandiose inflections. A rhythm pattern of in- 
tonation which goes up all the time or down all the time 
falls into a mechanical sway which is like repeating "The 
Music Goes Round and Round." 

But politicians can never learn. So immersed are they on 
the traditions of the bellowing school of oratory, that not 
even this marvelous carrying device of the microphone can 
soften their tone or allay their wild and impassioned vocaliza- 


The Future of the Radiorator 

Aldous Huxley paints an appalling picture of the future 
orator. Why are some speakers fascinatingly persuasive, 
while others, who have just as much or even more to say, 
either send their audiences to sleep or arouse in them an 
active hostility. The English philosopher believes that any 
political party or religious sect that discovers the answer to 
this question, and that acts upon its knowledge, will find it- 
self on the road to sure success. 

"Most voices," he says, "are emotionally neutral; some are 
definitely antipathetic to the average listener; and a very 
few are almost magically fascinating. Certain men and women 
are gifted with the power of making noises so intrinsically 
charming that crowds will follow them as eagerly as the 
children followed the Pied Piper. 

"Of our great star orators, the one whose success I can 
least understand is Hitler. His tone is that of an angry drill 
sergeant, and the harsh sound of his voice is, to my ears 
at least, most unattractive. To his great German audiences, 
however, he seems to be irresistible. Wherein does the 
orator's secret reside? To answer this question one would 
have to make records of the voices of the most successful 
speakers of the age and subject the sounds they produce to 
a detailed analysis. This analysis would show what sort of 
noises (measured in terms of pitch, volume and timbre) are 
most attractive when emitted in conjunction with words 
bearing a particular kind of emotional content. In the light 
of this knowledge, would-be orators would be tested for their 
chances of success and perhaps corrected of their faults." 

Much will depend upon the stuff the politician is saying. 
His first task is to get a good ghost. Herbert Hoover, after 
his departure from the White House, changed in his radio 
manner. He became chatty and even humorous at times, 
frequently pausing for laughs or applause. This change was 


attributed to Ben S. Allen, his publicity counselor, who is 
said to ghost for the ex-president. 

Postmaster General Farley always had his speeches written 
for him by Eddie Rodden. 

a 1 iiJ r: 

Politics and Propaganda 

Radio remains in constant dread that the microphone will 
be turned over to political propagandists who indulge in 
prejudice and passion. The American system permits every 
licensed broadcasting station to concede a certain quantity 
of time to civic discussion groups. The station is presumed 
to act in the public interest, and does not take upon itself 
the decision of what the public shall think. The danger 
arises in the use of the microphone by flamboyant and 
unprincipled speakers. Owen D. Young goes as far as to 
suggest that while oratorical license may be excused if it is 
confined to the natural range of the human voice, such 
license may have no place upon the sounding board of the 

It is evident that if there were no regulatory measures, 
politicians would be at the mercy of broadcasters. Who shall 
have time on the air? And to whom shall it be denied? 
Raymond Gram Swing admits that the sale of radio time is 
a thorny problem. "The principle that radio companies may 
derive revenue from selling political time is fundamentally 
repugnant to democracy, for it limits the radio political 
interests which have money to pay for the time, and that at 
once makes ability to pay the test of time." 

Freedom of speech on the air does not possess the same 
meaning as freedom of speech in general nor that of freedom 
of the press. Certain checks and balances on behalf of the 
public interest must be exercised. Every restriction imposed 
by the networks has been immediately challenged as an 


infringement upon the rights of free speech. The procedure 
established by the networks includes these rights: 

No station license is required to permit the use of its 
facilities by any legally qualified candidate for public office 
but if any licensee shall permit any such candidate to use its 
facilities, it shall afford equal opportunities to all other such 
candidates for that office to use such facilities, provided 
that such license shall have no power of censorship over the 
material broadcast by any such candidate. 

The rule also requires the rates, if any, charged to candi- 
dates for the same office shall be uniform and not be rebated 
by any means, directly or indirectly. 

No licensee shall make any discrimination in charges, 
practices, regulations, facilities, or services for or in con- 
nection with service rendered pursuant to these rules or 
make or give any preference to any candidate of public 
office or subject any such candidate to any prejudice or 

No licensee shall make any contract or other agreement 
which shall have the effect of permitting any legally quali- 
fied candidate for any public office to broadcast to the 
exclusion of other legally qualified candidates of the same 
public office. 

The Forum of the Air 

In ancient Rome the forum was the center of the cor- 
porate and public life of the city. The word originally 
referred to an open space left vacant in front of any edifice. 
In time the forum became the normal place of assembly for 
the people. 

The most typically American forum for political education 
was the old New England town meeting. The town halls of 
America for over one hundred and fifty years were the 
centers for public discussion and political action. Even today 
in many small towns the town meeting flourishes as an 


active institution in local political life. Now customs have 
changed! Now the speaker faces the microphone on the 
rostrum of a broadcasting room with a limited audience of 
about nine hundred present, but his forum covers vast 
spaces, and by extension his audience is likewise vast. 

The best organized forum is America's Town Meeting 
of the Air. The techniques developed by George V. Denny, 
Jr., Director of the League for Political Education, have 
made levels debate as effective as a dance orchestra. 

Over fifteen years before turning to the microphone, the 
League had been conducting public forums. These were in 
the nature of daily lectures, debates and joint discussions 
in "Town Hall," the building owned by the League in the 
heart of New York. All sides of important controversial 
subjects were discussed from the platform by eminent 
authorities. As an adaptation of the old New England idea, 
the audience was asked to participate in the discussion. 

Denny was the first to see the possibilities of the forum 
as a radio feature. The forum of Town Hall could become 
an important educational asset. He argued that the Ameri- 
can people needed a balanced appraisal on the pressing 
economic, social and political questions of the day. By 
matching the wits of the best minds on these problems, a 
certain broad and liberal viewpoint could be brought to 
listeners everywhere. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt attests to the importance 
of the Forum. In an address to the National Education 
Association recently he said prophetically: "It is of great 
importance to the future of our democracy that ways and 
means be devised to engage the maximum number of young 
people and adults in a continuous, fearless and free dis- 
cussion and study of public affairs. This should be the 
natural post-graduate program of all citizens, whether they 
leave the fulltime school early or late." 

John W. Studebaker, United States Commissioner of 


Education, summarizes the trend of Forums as a means of 
developing more intelligent citizenship. They provide ex- 
cellent machinery for the practice of democracy. A discus- 
sion, exchange of ideas, the matching of minds on a basis 
of truth for a reduction to the minimum of wasteful friction, 
misunderstanding and intolerance. 

Like every new program, the first broadcasts of the Ameri- 
can Forum of the Air were to be regarded trial affairs. The 
network was dubious. Only six were put on the air by NBC 
in 1935. Today these programs are broadcast weekly, have 
an enormous vogue. The programs lend prestige to the 
network that had the courage to inaugurate them. NBC has 
consistently refused the offer of sponsors to take over the 
programs on the ground that the forum has nothing to sell 
except the judgment of opinion and truth. The network 
pays the speakers one hundred dollars each, foots the inci- 
dental expenses and expends in all some fifty thousand 
dollars a year. 

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!! 

The question of forums aroused considerable discussion 
when President Franklin D. Roosevelt allocated funds for 
the establishment of forums under the direction of the 
Bureau of Education. It was at that time that Dr. Studebaker 
laid down the principles which should guide the conduct of 
such programs. These principles are worth study because 
they have been successfully adapted to radio forums. "Those 
who are in charge of the program will seek to obtain the 
services of men who are authorities in their respective fields, 
and yet are capable of speaking effectively to a crowd of 
typical Americans, and of encouraging and participating 
in general discussion. 

"The business of the forum is to promote information 
and thinking so that American voters will learn about the 
problems they face, and get facts making for wiser decisions 


concerning these. The forum leaders will doubtless have 
opinions, but they will be men and women who have come 
to these opinions by a searching study of the material with 
which they deal. They will present the material, not their 
opinions. We shall have no interest in promoting opinions, 
except the opinions men and women in the audiences will 
form for themselves after a full and fair discussion. And the 
speaker will doubtless give his opinion. But he will give it 
in a way to indicate that another opinion is possible, and 
that each of his hearers has a right to his own. Soon the 
audience will acquire the wish to know the facts on both 

"However, at certain meetings a speaker will be permitted 
to present a definite point of view, but with a 'panel' of 
various citizens, some of opposing views, who will sit on the 
platform with him, ask questions and make comments de- 
signed to bring out any aspects of his subject which he has 

America's Town Meeting of the Air has established its 
formula for broadcasting which today is the model of its 
kind. The general principles of the teacher-leader of a 
discussion group follow: 

1. Subject is controversial in nature. The chairman will 
insist on clear definition and agreement as to terms used. 
He will never fasten on the speakers his own point of view. 

2. No speaker takes the microphone for more than fifteen 

3. Speakers are two or more representative men in their 
own special fields. A more immediate interest in their own 
personalities is evoked if they are well known. 

4. Speaker is not permitted to make unsupported state- 
ments. The audience is trained to distinguish between fact 
and opinion and also to verify facts, not to argue about 

5. The aim of the Forum is to escape from the old method 


of debate at the conclusion of which it was decided which 
side won. The aim is centered on provoking thought rather 
than settling issues. The aim of the Chairman is to bring 
out as many points of view as possible and to draw the 
greatest number of speakers into the discussion. 

6. Regardless of the prominence of the speaker, no excep- 
tions are made to the prescribed Town Meeting formula. 
Speakers are given the microphone on an equal basis: each 
must leave himself open to the questions of the audience. 

7. Twenty-five minutes are allowed for questions from 
the audience and summary by the Chairman. 

8. In order to prevent awkward silences, a few stooges are 
always planted in the audience. 

The chairman has no easy task when the "Question 
Period" arrives. Here the element of suspense captures an 
audience. Any question may be fired at the people. And how 
will he answer? Heckling often sends shivers up the spinal 
column of the conservative officials of the networks. Often 
the questions are worded incoherently, and must be plainly 
restated by the director. Likewise the chairman must guard 
against statements which are abusive, libelous, unrelated to 
the subject, and those cranks who somehow manage to 
become part of every audience. "Anything might happen," 
reports Denny. Someone called a speaker a liar; a drunk 
managed to formulate a highly intelligent question; a men- 
tally unbalanced individual fulminated against the railroad- 
ing of men and women to the insane wards. 

What is the psychology that underlies the acceptance of 
such a program by the public? This is revealed by Mr. and 
Mrs. Harry A. Overstreet in their recently published book, 
Town Meeting Comes to Town. In the first place, it won 
for the second time the award of the Women's National 
Radio Committee. The average listener wants to be a par- 
ticipant. Listeners are privileged to ask questions of the 
speakers. Secondly, because the speakers differ in their points 


of view, the forum takes on the nature of a struggle, and 
audiences enjoy the matching of wits. Here is a large body 
of listeners who approach the subject with an open mind 
and who relish being instructed by the process. Lastly, the 
program though serious in its nature is not without its 
entertainment features. To a large body of listeners it is 
"terribly amusing." 

George V. Denny, Jr., the director, was once an actor. 
His diction is that of a man of culture, and his voice carries 
an air of authority without being dictatorial. It catches the 
ear of the listener with agreeableness. Denny has never lost 
his sense of the theater. He carries himself with the instincts 
of the showman. He knows that the forum would degenerate 
into a series of stodgy speeches without audience participa- 
tion. The program is a deft and perfect example of educa- 
tion in the guise of entertainment. 

The question period is most vital to listeners. It is a kind 
of excitement they crave. A long distance reflector micro- 
phone developed originally for out door events is focused 
on speakers in any part of the hall. Heckling to the listener 
is the highest kind of excitement and entertainment. It is 
never permitted to verge on mud slinging but approximates 
the real thing. To provoke the audience into the proper 
heckling mode, Town Hall opens an hour before the pro- 
gram during which time the topic of the evening is dis- 
cussed from the floor. It is the duty of the chairman to keep 
the debate on a spirited yet peaceful level. 

To many listeners the speakers, with their prepared 
speeches, are not the real show of the program. These pro- 
grams would grow in public acclaim if it were possible 
for Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public to have a bigger part in 
them. To extend the question period would be to destroy 
the values of the panel presentations. Some equation must 
be struck in the matter of distribution of time. That is 
problem enough for the director. 


Most important is the selection of the subject. This can- 
not be a hit or miss affair. In the days before '76, Harvard 
students tested their dialectics on such problems as "Does 
a shadow move?" or "Do physicians pray for the welfare 
of their people?" Popular subjects were discovered by sur- 
veys conducted among the audience actually seated in Town 
Hall, New York. The public press offers pertinent and 
timely topics. America's Town Meeting was responsible for 
breaking down the barriers on many of radio's topics. In its 
first radio season in 1935, a representative of each of the 
four parties Republican, Democrat, Socialist and Com- 
munist was invited to present his views. This was the first 
time in radio history that a Communist was invited to speak 
over the networks about his party's ideals. A general censor- 
ship or taboo is not exercised by the network, but NBC 
reserves the right to approve the subject selected by the 

There is a Latin adage which runs, in rather free trans- 
lation, "The man who argues with himself picks a sap as his 
adversary." No normal person likes to be a sap. This is the 
reason why public discussion groups have been established 
in every part of America. America's Town Meeting of the 
Air has stimulated the growth of listening groups interested 
in a review of important current problems. These groups 
meet in schools, CCC meetings, YMCA auditoriums and 
other centers where a radio is available. Provocative dis- 
cussion follows the presentation of the Town Hall programs, 
and thus by extension these meetings develop into localized 
discussion centers. There are some five hundred of these 
groups, the membership in each ranging from twelve to 
three hundred and fifty. 

A new three-year contract between NBC and Town Hall, 
Inc., calls for an extension of the programs up to 1941 and 
expands their scope. In the past, Town Meeting speakers 
have discussed primarily political and economic problems; 


in the future, their discussions also will include questions 
of social and cultural significance covering the fields of 
science, literature, and art. 

Conversation and Interview Programs 

Round-table discussions in which two, three, or four 
people participate are generally used in presenting contro- 
versial material and are almost always extemporized. If 
read they sound unnatural. The round-table is to the con- 
versation program what drama is to entertainment. Both 
should contain conflict in the sense of presenting opposing 
ideas), and unless there is a real difference of opinion one 
could not unqualifiedly recommend the dialogue form. An 
agreement by all sounds anemic, staged and artificial. 

The round-table should create the illusion of living-room 
conversation. The participants should seem to be talking 
to one another as if no microphone were present. Long 
speeches or arguments should be banned. Speakers should 
call one another by name until established. Voices should 
be as different as possible. A chairman, or someone in 
charge, to prevent heckling and to move the discussion 
along, is necessary. So, too, a rather carefully prepared open- 
ing and closing. If the participants in a planned round-table 
get "cold feet" and insist on manuscripts unless they are 
very good actors and read well, it would be well to modify 
the form and make it "Questions and Answers" with an 
interrogator reading the questions, the participant reading 
the answers, and not attempt to give the illusion of spon- 
taneous conversation. 

The Interview is one of the most effective and yet often 
most carelessly done forms for presenting information on 
the air. The effective interviewer can direct the path of 
an inexperienced speaker so that he covers the material 
desired. It can be prepared quickly and made to sound 


entirely natural. It breaks up what would perhaps otherwise 
be dull and dreary talk. Emphasis can be placed on ideas 
that might otherwise be lost in a maze of words. In the 
hands of an adroit interviewer it is possible to hold one 
phase of the subject only as long as interest is sustained and 
then switch to another phase. Such pacing widens, avoids 
tiresome detail and objectifies the time to be used for dif- 
ferent points. 

The difficulty of the interview form lies in the fact that 
few adequately prepare for it. Actually, the interviewer 
ought to represent the audience and ask questions that they 
would ask given the opporunity. In his hands, it succeeds 
or fails. If the subject has nothing to offer, the program 
should not be attempted. The most popular question, should 
come first. Questions by the interviewer should be varied 
with statements so as to avoid the effect of merely rotating 
questions and answers. 

Smiling Microphones 

CBS has devised an informal conversational debate that 
comes under the Forum. The president of CBS provides his 
private dining room with full platter and a battery of mikes. 
The mikes are hidden under smilax. If the butler had not 
been eager to remove the coffee cups, the guests rattled them, 
none would have been conscious of an extra mural existence. 
The mikes are opened and the diners carry on their gossip 
and all the world hears. Deems Taylor was there and Rock- 
well Kent and Orson Welles. There were some good stories 
before they went on the air. After a certain time they acted 
like adults. We musn't tell certain stories because youngsters 
are about. 

There is still a need for a good conversational program 
even though one was formulated by CBS. It was NBC which 
inaugurated the cross-table chatter of nine well-known per- 


sons in the literary field grouped around a table in a private 
home. For no particular reason they were limited to the 
topic "Is Bridge Destroying the Art of Conversation?" 

But the faint success of the first experiment should not 
prevent NBC from making another attempt. Considering 
the large audiences gathered by individual commentators, 
it would seem logical that several speakers with the ability 
to talk interestingly on a general subject could provide a 
half hour that would be even more entertaining and pro- 
vocative. Everything would depend on the talkers themselves 
and the general appeal of their topic plus a certain amount 
of direction to keep the theme moving in a straight line. 

In England, all controversial matter was at first excluded 
from the air. Later the lid was off. This freedom on the 
air is ascribed to George Bernard Shaw's influence. GBS 
is called "radio satirist No. i of England." He debunked 
every hero and every dogma, from Adam to Eve. It was 
Shaw who told his fellow countrymen on the air to stop 
gassing about freedom because they didn't know what it 
was, never having had any. 

GBS is "too sharp, too smart" for the average listener. 
Pugnacious. Defiant, with a smile. Somewhat of a bully. 
Defying dogma and preaching his own. Matching his wit 
with wisdom. In voice, very simple and natural. Colloquial. 
Informal. Something of that intimacy and simplicity which 
marks a man who is sure of himself without the necessity 
of shouting from the housetops. A benignity blessed with 
stability in voice, almost paradoxical. The only speech made 
to an American audience from a London studio began, 
"Hello, you boobs, you dear old boobs." 

Women Take to the Air 

Women have won success in every sphere of radio except 
that of announcing. They have forged ahead in spite of the 


indifference of studio officials. They have demonstrated by 
their special talents that they have a right to exercise their 
voice personalities. And some day they may break from the 
microphone as regular announcers. 

It is to be admitted that there are special programs in 
which the talents of women do not find appropriate demon- 
stration. In many respects women can never achieve the 
same listener-reaction as men. Nevertheless women remain 
indispensable as participants in the majority of radio pro- 
ductions. As sales ladies on the air they fit into many pro- 
grams where a man's appeal would be inept. In the realm 
of song, the musical review, the drama, the interview and 
in that wide variety of programs where chatter both sen- 
sible and nonsensical are required, women are at their best. 

Their high pitched voices enhance the element of surprise 
in comedy. From the very outset, prejudice against women 
as announcers was based on two important discoveries: 
First, that it is the male and not the female who has the 
dominant selling voice: second, that the male is better 
equipped with judgment and tact under the exacting condi- 
tions of the studio. 

The general belief in the trade is that women who do the 
bulk of the buying are not interested in women's voices. 
The preference goes to men, many of whom suffer from 
some horrible and vulgar voice mannerisms. All this reduces 
the woman's radio problem to that of expressive voice per- 
sonality and appropriate speech. 

In these days without benefit of television all the glamour 
of femininity which derives from dress and physical charm 
is reduced to the vanishing point before the microphone. 
To the listener the woman is but a synthesist vocal effect 
which creates in the listener her stage presence. Hence 
women are put to the severest test in order to impress public 

Both men and women react more readily to women's 


voices. Many women engaged in commercial ballyhoo are 
mere copywriters. Their patronizing inflections remind one 
of the teacher talking to her children. Radio audiences resent 
a manner in voice that is too intimate on short acquaintance. 
The other extreme is a flattening down of delivery into 
colorless and monotonous patterns. 

The judgment of the great listening public seems at this 
stage to be definitely against women as announcers. "More 
than a good five cent cigar, this country needs a good radio 
woman announcer," one male fan expressed himself. In July, 
1926, five thousand listeners were asked their preference for 
men or women announcers. The vote was one hundred to one 
in favor of the men. In the 1933 Literary Digest poll not a 
single vote was cast in favor of women announcers. 

In Europe women were rejected as announcers on such 
sentimental grounds that listeners are too much interested 
in their voices and too little in what they have to say. In 
England, after an experiment, women announcers did not 
seem to meet with public favor and so were reduced to a 
negligible few. 

The Italian Broadcasting monopoly IAR showed no dis- 
position to restrict announcing to men. They placed a 
woman in charge of the English and French news in special 
events broadcasts. She was none other than Miss Lisa Sergio. 
It must be remembered that her mother before her marriage 
was Margaret Fitzgerald of Baltimore. In 1938 Miss Sergio 
came to America as the guest announcer of NBC. She left 
a very fine impression as to what women should do as 

No woman has ever achieved fame like Milton J. Cross 
or James Wallington. It is always the male 'voice that 
articulates the familiar words, "This is the National Broad- 
casting Company" and the like. It is generally believed that 
women suffer from an insurmountable handicap in their 
speaking voices. From the physical standpoint their usual 


speaking voice is not sonorous, deep and vibrating when 
transmitted over the air. It often takes on a thin unpleasant 
quality. Even if a woman's natural voice is attractive and 
musical, it may not register effectively over the microphone. 
The voices of men and women do not create the same 
psychological effect. On the air it is an exception to hear 
a woman's voice which has an attractive smooth quality. 
The chatter-box often indulges in staccato effects which 
impinge themselves on the ears of both men and women like 
so many rattling dishpans. The high pitches of women lend 
a shrieking invitation to irritation. 

If women are to succeed on the air as announcers, they 
should cultivate the lively tones of conversation that reach 
the listener with sincere appeal. The voice that is the true 
measure of a woman's personality will be free from affecta- 
tion and mechanical inflections that often make her utter- 
ances soulless and empty. 

Women seem to have difficulty in restraining their en- 
thusiasm and often fail when the occasion calls for dignity 
and reserve. Men from the very start were regarded as 
better fitted for the average assignment for announcers and 
it is quite uncommon today to have any woman sent out 
to cover sports, opera, conventions and public meetings. 

It is the exception and the selection that proves the rule. 
Women can creditably fill any field of announcing if the 
competence were selected by the station and sponsor. 

Take the case of a lady baseball announcer. The average 
listener would say, "No, she can't do it." Yet Broadcasting 
reported in 1937 the success of Mrs. Johnson, the wife of 
Harry Johnson, sports announcer of KFAB, Lincoln. Mrs. 
Harry Johnson succeeded in winning the title of the "First 
Lady Baseball Announcer." It so happened that when Harry 
turned the microphone over to her for one inning during 
a game between Brooklyn and St. Louis, the fans were so 
pleased with the lady's performance that they called, wired, 


and wrote for more. KFAB's baseball sponsor, General Mills, 
approved the feminine angle and authorized a repeat broad- 

The Few Who Achieve 

Radio has not always been injudicious in its choice of 
women announcers. On occasion they have selected types 
who have become ornaments to the profession. Among these 
are Rosalind Green, Geraldine Farrar, and perhaps with 
milder acceptance, Elsie Janis. 

Rosalind Green who announced for Mrs. Roosevelt was 
awarded a prize for Radio's Most Perfect Voice in 1926. 
Some radio critics like to call Rosalind Green the "Queen 
of the Air." Her success comes from the use of her warm 
contralto voice which has an extraordinary range and flexi- 
bility. Her fame became established in the role of Mary 
Lou in the Show Boat series. The speaking voice of Mary 
Lou was entrusted to her through the appearances of five 
consecutive singing Mary Lous. As the sea captain's romantic 
daughter her voice endeared itself to the hearts of listeners. 
She is versatile, serving as news commentator. She has played 
on the air three thousand times in every role from a 
Shakespearean tragedienne to the newly born child. Her 
announcing is free from affectation, silly tonalities, and 
nervous inflectional touches. 

After ten years of absence from prima donna success at 
the Metropolitan, Geraldine Farrar appeared in a new role 
that of opera commentator or narrator. Listeners who 
have a memory of her say that she was even more effective 
than Milton J. Cross in the same capacity. She preferred 
to be called a "raconteuse." Her notion of the opera com- 
mentator was not to lecture or instruct, nor to delve into the 
technicalities of music. She avoided the stereotyped or the 
academic. She discussed music and singers in an inimitable 
friendly way that made listeners regard her as a friend. 


Sharp criticism was beyond the scope of Geraldine Farrar. 
As a "raconteuse" she drew largely upon her personal ex- 
periences. In Faust, for instance, she told of the many Mar- 
guerites she had sung in many lands, and she added to her 
impression by singing her version of the better known 
melodies. For some reason or other, Geraldine Farrar faded 
out after the first season of broadcasting. 

The engagement of Elsie Janis as announcer for NBC was 
heralded as an innovation. Her career, however, was short- 
lived. She never did reach meteoric heights. Although a 
brilliant actress with a superb voice, it was not the type of 
voice that registered through a microphone. It was even a 
strange voice for a woman a cross between a bass and a 
soprano. Her vocal chords vacillated one moment high and 
one moment low. She found something about the excite- 
ment of war in announcing. Her manner was fresh and 
buoyant but smacked of the training that came from her 
career as a Broadway musical star. She became one of the 
passing show of women announcers whose voices the net- 
works cut off prematurely. 

She had a serious view of her work, and Radio Guide 
records an interview with her: "I've observed an excellent 
pencil caricature of womanhood. There are women taxicab 
drivers, women airplane pilots and women in practically 
every other field of endeavor you can mention. So why not 
a woman radio announcer?" 

Elsie Janis, although a brilliant actress with a superb 
voice, had a brief career as announcer. Claudine McDonald 
of NBC missed the recognition that her talents deserved. 

Classifying the Types 

Women fall into special groups as radio performers. Let 
us briefly classify. One thinks first of the comedian. In this 
field women are inimitable. They are the props of radio 


comedy. The unfailing source of a laugh, the embodiment 
of the comic spirit. The shining examples of a Gracie Allen, 
Fannie Brice, Mary Livingstone, Beatrice Lillie and Port- 
land Hoffa. 

Next comes the field of the drama which radio has been 
slow to take unto itself. Within the radio roster are included 
the distinguished stars who have been recruited from the 
famous stage or the movies. One might mention Helen 
Hayes and Helen Menken. 

The third group embraces the glamorous torch singers of 
the air. They are the female heir'ophants of Tin Pan Alley 
which gives them plaintive love-sick songs to warble with 
deep-throated emotionalism. Some of them are beautiful, 
according to Hollywood standards. From their legion can 
be mentioned the names of Dorothy Lamour, Alice Faye 
and Gertrude Niessen. Time has marched on since Libby 
Holman used to sing her blues around here, but Miss Hoi- 
man hasn't. Her blues are the same, sung with the husky, 
throaty, tremulous contralto that used to be so effective 
before the boys discovered swing. 

The fourth group is the friendly or homey type of per- 
former among whom Kate Smith is the leading example. 
Few achieve in this highly stylized field. Some owe their 
success to their unique appeal to all classes of listeners. They 
touch the common core of life with advice relating to the 
home, personal ambitions and the like. Their power lies in 
a sort of hypnotic motherly spell they hold over listeners. 
They seem to fill an aching void with a friendly and sym- 
pathetic voice. Kate Smith adds to her prestige by her 
humanitarianism. In 1937 during the Mississippi-Ohio river 
flood she made two appeals for the American Red Cross and 
herself received over four hundred thousand letters. The 
unequaled power of a friendly or homey type is described 
as "pulling power" measured in terms of tops of cans and 


The mention of Kate Smith always revives the question 
"Who is the first lady in radio?" The title should really be 
inherited or passed on from one woman to another as soon 
as she leaves the field. Two present contestants for this title 
are the late Vaughn de Leith and Kate Smith. Miss De 
Leith's contention was based on the historical fact that she 
had appeared on the World Power program with Dr. Lee 
De Forest in December, 1919; that since that time she had 
made many appearances including those on local stations in 
1920, on the Wrigley show in 1926-27, on Firestone Tire for 
nineteen months in 1929 and 1930, worked on the air for 
Dodge, RCA, Battle Creek foods. Kate Smith allows that 
her rival was the first lady of radio in the sense that she was 
the pioneer but not in point of popularity polls. The matter 
reached the courts in a non-conclusive legal battle between 
the two ladies. 

Radio created a special field in which women could shine 
as the home-makers. The home-makers represent a large 
group of broadcasters who hold a rendezvous with the 
woman in the kitchen. Women learn while they are busy 
with their chores. They lend a willing ear to injunctions 
on cooking, care of children, dish-washing, paperhanging, 
home furnishing, gardening, etiquette, antiques. Women 
who broadcast in this sphere have an encyclopedic range. 
Food is important news. More than seven million have to 
be fed every day in New York and in every metropolitan 
city as well as in the suburbs women are on the alert to 
enlarge culinary skill. 

Women have been enlisted to broadcast the truths and 
the untruths about fashion and beauty. This type of pro- 
gram will probably go on forever, since the feminine instinct 
for aids to beauty and adornment is ageless. 

Drawn mainly from the journalistic field, the most dis- 
tinguished among women commentators is Dorothy Thomp- 
son. Others who have met with popular acceptance are 


Katherine Craven, Adela Rogers St. John, and Martha 
Deane. Sponsored in 1938 Dorothy Thompson brought to 
the air those special gifts in voice without which her wise 
observation on the world scene may not have been met with 
the same acceptance as her newspaper writings. Her voice is 
fairly resonant and she has an easy colloquial manner which 
marks the trained speaker. Never concerned with micro- 
phone technique, she is what is called a "natural." 

Women who aspire to become news commentators must 
know how to write. There is practically no place in radio 
for the woman who is merely a news gatherer. Her voice 
must measure to her achievement in editorial interpretation. 
Dorothy Thompson's success on the air is born of that same 
training which has made H. V. Kaltenborn America's out- 
standing news commentator. Air journalism for women is an 
ideal profession if they have the proper background. Miss 
Thompson has watched five revolutions. She has lived here 
and abroad. She was expelled from Germany for broadcast- 
ing that Adolph Hitler would never become dictator. Before 
going on the air she accomplished something new for a 
woman a column in the New York Herald Tribune's "On 
the Record." 

Dorothy Thompson believes that air journalism demands 
a thoroughly disciplined mind, an analytical gift, and a 
knowledge of history and economics. Like H. V. Kaltenborn, 
she has a passion for facts and travel, and can draw on her 
experiences in the vital centers of Europe. She avoids those 
romantic twists the average woman commentator would be 
guilty of. 

The emotionalized radio news reporter is found in 
Kathryn Craven who sees "News Through a Woman's Eyes" 
for CBS. She is known as the Flying Commentator and holds 
the distinction of being the first woman news commentator 
to talk from coast to coast. A Texas girl, she came to radio 
by way of the stage. Now she keeps five or six secretaries 


busy all day in garnering those news events that can be 
interpreted in terms of sympathy, comedy and drama. With 
a woman's intuition Miss Craven seeks to go beyond the 
facts on the front page. Always she has a psychological view, 
exposing the feelings and reactions of men and women under 
the strain and stress of extraordinary situations. Her par- 
ticular method is to focus on a special situation the 
murderer about to be executed, the notorious shop-lifter, 
the survivor of flood and misery, the congressional lobbyist, 
the war-torn cripple, the bum who finds a haven in the flop 

This type of journalism has the danger of becoming too 
gushy and overly sentimental. Miss Craven escapes this error. 
It is a program which promises to give a woman's point of 
view and the commentator must live up to the promise. 

Radio recruited Adela St. Johns from the newspaper and 
magazine field. She was brought up in court room drama 
the daughter of Earl Rogers, the criminal lawyer of the 
West who defended Clarence Darrow in a jury bribery case. 
In speech she has a compressed and highly dramatic style. 
Before the microphone she conveys something of that fervor 
which belongs to the scene she is depicting. 

Probably the most "folksy" program on the air is that of 
Mary Margaret McBride, radio chatterbox. Five times a 
week, as Martha Deane, for station WOR, Newark, the 
Missouri farm girl rambles along in an Ozark accent. Mostly 
without a script and letting unfinished sentences dangle in 
midair, she gossips about everything from cheesecake to the 
color of an Arctic explorer's beard. Her twangy patter is 
aimed at housewives who snap on the radio switch as they 
iron shirts, dust the furniture and darn socks. And how they 
love it! They deluge her with one thousand eight hundred 
letters a week and shower her with bizarre gifts every year for 
her birthday. 

Miss McBride is a large, gray-haired woman of the 


motherly type who came to New York thirteen years ago 
after a varied newspaper experience in the Midwest. She 
made a reputation as a magazine writer, edited a woman's 
page for a syndicate, and finally stepped into a household 
hints spot on WOR. "And I hold nothing back, goodness 
knows," she says. "They love, too, little yarns of curiosities, 
things to tell their husbands over the dinner table at night, 
origins of expressions or customs. Animal stories are good 
except stories about snakes, they can't endure those. Descrip- 
tions of beautiful homes and gardens they like especially." 

The "folksy commentator" is in a class all by herself. One 
need but mention Martha Deane as an example of the 
world's eternal chatterbox. She has no special gifts in voice, 
but beguiles the listener with a casual stream of conversation, 
speaking like friend, confidante, and good neighbor. 

Martha Deane has never lost her mid-western phraseology 
and inflection. She can describe and sell everything from 
Russian sable coats to baby dolls. Her gushiness is supreme. 
She can extol the beauties of broccoli, ice cream, and spe- 
cial foods with a syrupy manner that sticks. Heard over 
CBS as Mary Margaret McBride, she is reputed to draw 
more fan mail than any other woman on the air. In 1938, 
she paid an income tax close to eighty-one thousand dollars. 
As a newspaper woman, Martha Deane was widely known 
before she began broadcasting. A long experience in inter- 
viewing stands her in good stead. 

One of the most adventurous sides of broadcasting, accord- 
ing to Miss Deane, is the appearance of guests on the pro- 
gram. For this reason the art of interviewing should be 
cultivated to the highest degree. She is supreme in the art 
and engages her microphone guests as though chatting 
together over a tea table. 

"Men interviewers are more detached than women, I have 
discovered," says Miss Deane. "They probe into the matter 
of how you did it, anxious to try and analyze your success 


in terms of their own preconceived notion of the answer. 
Incredulous, that any woman could make a success in radio 
just by her own efforts, they are all pretty well convinced 
that there must be some man behind the scenes who gave 
you your start and still protects you from the raps." 

Your Opportunities, Ladies 

By degrees women have stormed every department of 
radio and risen to high executive office. Women indeed have 
found places in executive posts where men have feared to 

Bertha Brainard, who drove an ambulance during the 
war, entered radio by way of publicity writing. She climbed 
up the ladder of radio in 1922 when she sallied into the 
old station at Aeolian Hall and told the harried WJZ man- 
ager that his programs were trashy. She offered to show him 
how they could be improved. Step by step from script 
writer she served in varied positions. Today she is com- 
mercial program manager for NBC and is reputed to be the 
most highly paid woman in the business. 

A woman that won place as the Girl of the Month in the 
March, 1938, issue of Good Housekeeping is described by 
Alice Boothe as "a real power behind the microphone who 
flies continually and phones people all over the world." Her 
name is Helen J. Sioussat, Assistant Director of Talks of 
CBS. She is one of those unseen personalities whose execu- 
tive skill brings the great men in the news before the 

The peculiar needs of children's programs have developed 
a type of department manager skilled in child psychology. 
Nila Mack, head of the Children's Department of CBS, 
devotes her talents to the creation and direction of children's 
programs and does it in a way to lend distinction to the 
station. She won her first spurs in radio at station WBBZ, 


her home town, Ponca City, Oklahoma. After stage ex- 
perience with Nazimova, she acted in the movies for six 
years. From strenuous announcing and script writing, CBS 
enlisted her as producer and director. Miss Mack offers 
sage advice to aspirants who want to deal with children's 
programs: "Now women who can write good brisk copy 
about feminine things are always needed in radio work. 
Stage and musical experience are valuable too. Perhaps my 
own success with my programs is due to my stage experience 
and my ability to treat children as my equals." 

The critical faculty plays a large part in obtaining pro- 
motion in radio. A woman's wise and shrewd analysis of a 
woman's program is always bound to meet with respect. The 
director of daytime programs at NBC is Margaret Cuthbert. 
Her entry into radio was due to her critical analysis of the 
network's women's programs which she undertook to im- 
prove. She is said to be a perfect diplomat in making the 
great personalities of the world feel at ease before the 

Radio offers a challenge to women in the matter of jobs. 
In a recent interview in Radio Stars Miss Cuthbert lent 
an encouraging word: "I really think broadcasting has 
marvelous opportunities for women in important jobs be- 
hind the scenes. And I think those opportunities are equal 
to men's. They begin with such routine jobs as hostesses, 
filing clerks, statisticians, stenographers and so forth. A good 
many jobs like that have been the entering wedges for 
women in radio. I should say that executive ability, a sense 
of time, drama and news are almost essential. And aspirants 
certainly should have versatility, originality, resourceful- 
ness, and tact. 

"Women who have been successful in executive fields in 
radio seem to emphasize the importance of common sense 
as an asset. Any broad background of culture and experi- 


ence is valuable. Bertha Brainard emphasizes real writing 
ability as the great asset "in fact it is the greatest," she 
says. "I always recommend that a woman with ability in 
that direction get in touch with her local station, present 
her ideas and get her training in its continuity department. 
It's by far the best way!" 

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt 

The wife of the President has won her radio spurs by her 
own right. Her manner is informal as she chats and com- 
ments on current news. She receives three thousand five 
hundred dollars fee which she has continued to contribute 
to charity. She is still the best non-professional on the air 
and her success is due to her voice which saturates with 
friendliness and springs from a sincere love for the people 
she is talking to. 

The voice instructor of Mrs. Roosevelt is Mrs. Von Hess, 
who trains the New York Telephone Company operators 
in the Manhattan area. The formula for good radio an- 
nouncing, according to Mrs. Von Hess, is simple, and women 
can master it as well as the male. It is merely a matter of 
learning "practicability of speech, devoid of verbosity and 
affectation." But Mrs. Von Hess warns that unnatural 
accents, English or otherwise, have no place in broadcasting. 
Furthermore, she explains that with proper training a 
mediocre voice can be rriade to sound more agreeable than 
an untrained voice of excellent timbre. 

"The female voice with its wider range and resultant 
superior modulation is capable of greater depth of expres- 
sion, making the male voice appear comparatively dispas- 
sionate," said Mrs. Von Hess in an interview. "This is a 
distinct and natural advantage the male voice is physically 
unable to enjoy. For these reasons women are the likely 
candidates for the positions of announcers because radio, 


like the telephone, enhances the attributes as well as it 
accentuates the defects of the human voice in reproduction." 

Mrs. Von Hess, in an interview with Sally MacDougall, 
of the Scripps-Howard papers, revealed that "Mrs. Roosevelt 
works mainly on breath control to get a deeper tone than 
the one she has been using, also to get a more balanced tone. 
When the diaphragm has been brought under control with 
what I call the wide breath, there will be no danger of the 
voice going off on a tangent toward the end of sentences a 
fault that the President's wife shares with many a man and 

Primarily, then, Mrs. Roosevelt's voice goes off on a 
tangent and cracks on high pitches. Mrs. Roosevelt likewise 
shows a tendency to laugh and talk at the same time. 
"Laugh when you laugh," admonishes Mrs. Von Hess, "but 
the Creator never yet made a person that could laugh and 
talk at the same time and do it becomingly." 

Faulty high pitches of the average feminine voice come 
from a lack of breath or diaphragmatic control. Mrs. Von 
Hess recommends a cure for this high pitch tendency. "Put on 
an imaginary rubber belt. Every breath you draw should 
stretch the belt at the sides. That opens the lower lungs, 
which in most Americans never get any exercise at all. This 
wide, deep breathing takes the tension away from the throat, 
so that at the finish of a sentence the deep tone is sustained." 

Radio has produced very few leaders among the women. 
There are some exceptions. The present-day picture of 
women in radio furnishes a more distinct pattern for the 
listener than for the performer. Few women leaders in this 
field are reliable and intelligent. 

But if Mrs. Roosevelt takes her radio job in her stride, 
you can't say the same for the President or the Department 
of State. Her script must always go back to the President 
and the officials of the State Department for a thorough 
reading, particularly when it contains some reference to 


either of them. Often it is changed. Mrs. Roosevelt, as far 
as anyone knows, never protests against changes, but they 
do amuse her. She has indicated to the people on the pro- 
gram that sometimes Washington is a little overfussy. ''There 
isn't anything I say over the air that could possibly harm 
anyone," she said one night, "but my Washington advisers 
must see my work. Men are so much more squeamish than 
women about this sort of thing!" 

Even after they have seen and approved of her scripts, 
the President and officials of the State Department listen in 
to her broadcasts probably because they know, as many a 
radio performer has found to his cost, that things which 
look innocent enough in the reading often take on an en- 
tirely new meaning when they're heard on the air. 

"Mrs. Roosevelt is one of the most charming women in 
the world," said Fannie Hurst admiringly, "but her radio 
voice does not equal her personality; it fails to reveal one- 
eighth of her magnetism. 

"President Roosevelt's voice is the finest exponent of radio 
today. I think he has done more to dignify broadcasting 
than anyone else. His speeches, with that intimate touch, 
have set an unheard of precedent, and given all candidates 
good cause to worry about their voices. 

"It's a funny thing, this radio, it plays tricks! Women's 
voices on the air sound as if they were selling gelatine at 
an exposition. To my mind the only good feminine radio 
voice is that of Martha Deane. But I honestly think that the 
queer tricks radio plays with voices are caused by the micro- 
phone itself. It is nothing we broadcasters can control." 

If women who speak on the radio would keep a standby 
pianist sounding A flat softly as they talked they could soon 
disprove the contention that "women make poor an- 
nouncers," according to Vida Ravenscroft Sutton, director 
of WJZ's Magic of Speech program. 

"Most women become nervous and flustered when they 


face a mike," Miss Sutton observes. "Their throats are 
constricted and the voice becomes high and unpleasant. 
Having the pianist sound a pleasant pitch serves as a re- 
minder to keep the voice low and comparatively level." 

The time has come for women to realize their responsi- 
bilities to radio. They have the means through educational 
activities to equip themselves to accept the challenge of 
radio, to put an end to the prejudices and to surpass the 
male in advantages for public service. There are exceptions. 
There is the cultured voice of Lisa Sergio, internationally 
known for her splendid English and French diction. First 
she appeared for NBC and now produces WXQR's "Column 
of the Air," five days a week. 

A Dayton, Ohio, survey, made by a questionnaire being 
mailed to every twenty-sixth telephone user, showed women's 
features coming eleventh in preference. Whatever the reason 
is, news reports are reported as being four hundred per 
cent more popular. Drama and comedy both are listed as 
being three hundred per cent more popular, and music, 
both classical and popular, likewise arouses three times as 
much interest. Even political speeches are sometimes in- 

Of course, in America, the problem of pleasing some 
listeners is different from that in England. The British 
system of broadcasting places program authority in the 
hands of the wireless officials themselves, and there are no 
commercial programs to worry about. But in this country, 
before many of the objectionable programs can be ruled 
off the air, the network owners must sell, in many cases, the 
sponsors of commercial shows the idea that the broadcasts 
are objectionable. 

One of the most difficult things in the world is convincing 
a sponsor that his programs are faulty if they happen to be 
selling his product at a merry pace. 


Television Next! 

Television will probably catch up with this book so that 
revised editions of it will have to give better than a post- 
script to this subject. Meanwhile, many women are antici- 
pating some part in television advertising. It is believed that 
the first use of this new medium will be in the more ex- 
tended demonstration of products; especially foods, home 
equipment, cars, and cosmetics. There are three ways in 
which you might participate: 

1. Visually, as commentator or demonstrator. 

2. By coming in as a voice, off-stage, delivering the com- 

3. By writing the commercials and stepping into the visual 
area when you deliver them. 

To be a visual part of a demonstrating program, you'll 
be required to combine the mental alertness and glib tongue 
of any radio announcer with the streamlined figure and 
photogenic face of a Hollywood star. You needn't be a 
beauty; but you must be trim and pleasing in appearance, 
with the proverbial face that "photographs well." 

The International Council of Women at its last session 
at Edinburg (July, 1938) took full cognizance of the im- 
portance of radio in the lives of women. Through its radio 
committee headed by Dr. Marie Castellani who was respon- 
sible for women broadcasting from Rome to foreign coun- 
tries, a resolution was carried which urged that in each 
country suitably qualified women should take an active 
interest in broadcasting both through their organizations 
and by studio participation, and recommended that listeners 
should be induced to form groups for sending criticism and 
suggestions to the proper authorities. 

Dr. Castellani pleaded for promotion of international 
broadcasting of a meeting sponsored each year by different 


countries and addresed by women of influence in interna- 
tional affairs. 

"American women," she says, "evidently haven't the cour- 
age of their British cousins, and they ought to know of the 
incident in London recently, which was snowed under in 
the news by the Edward- Wally romance. Some five thousand 
London housewives descended on the wireless programme 
chiefs and demanded relief from endless cooking lessons, 
household hints and patronizing talks on how to raise chil- 
dren. The women explained that they were sufficiently 
chained to the kitchen without being constantly reminded 
of it; that they knew what their husbands wanted to eat, 
and had no time to stop sweeping to jot down recipes. What 
they really wanted was music, dramas, love stories and 
travelogues to lift them mentally out of their drudgery." 

Then it was pointed out that recipes broadcast over the 
radio could be taken just as well from cookery books. When 
read over the air, such recipes might cause any number of 
mistakes, with the result that some horrid dish would be 
cooked. Many a husband has made a wry face at the soup 
and, on asking what made it taste so queerly, been told 
that "it was the static." 

A further complaint that the women had to offer against 
cookery talks was that these were sometimes condescending, 
or as they put it, "sniffy." If a woman is so sensitive about 
being high-hatted over the radio, it was taken to mean that 
she resents her position in relation to the speaker. 

Jazz and political discussions, they said, were preferable 
to dull and stupid household suggestions. 

In America, a group of surveys launched by the Columbia 
Broadcasting System also proved, even more sharply, that 
women are bored by talks about pots and pans. Possibly this 
is so because American women have more labor-saving 
gadgets and machines than the British, and so find house- 
keeping less of a problem needing outside advice. 



FEDERAL censorship lifts the sword of Damocles over 
the stations through the land. A nation-wide Gallup 
poll in 1938 indicates that the majority of listeners are 
opposed to censorship. Listeners have been made to envisage 
a system that would control and blue pencil dance programs, 
Charlie McCarthy and bed-time stories. Censorship of the 
press would increase the dictatorial power of radio, free 
speech would be throttled and censorship used as political 
expedient for the party in power to choke off the opposition. 

Those who favor close supervision of Radio by the Gov- 
ernment smile at those fears and ask us to turn to the systems 
of control in other democracies like France, England, and 
Sweden. Central control, they cried, will provide the nation 
with better programs and eliminate misleading advertising. 

Radio censorship is nothing new. A typical example of 
its operation: In 1926 Station WEAF barred a speech by 
Norman Thomas, sponsored by the United Parents Asso- 
ciation. A rival station, WMCA, in order to prove that free- 
dom of the air was not a myth, gallantly invited Mr. Thomas 
to use its facilities. However, on the very morning of the 
proposed broadcast, WMCA withdrew the invitation with- 
out any explanation. 

The first regulatory law of 1927, specifically prohibited 
the Commission from exercising any censorship over pro- 
grams. "Nothing in this act," the law reads, "shall be under- 
stood or construed to give the Commission the power of 
censorship over the radio communications or signals trans- 
mitted by any radio station, and no regulation or condition 
shall be promulgated or fixed by the Commission which 



shall interfere with the right of free speech by means of 
radio communication." 

"No person within the jurisdiction of the United States 
shall utter any obscene, indecent or profane language by 
means of radio communication." 

Both of these provisions have been reincorporated in the 
Act of 1934. Few will not admit that the FCC maintains a 
definite control over broadcasting stations through the 
periodic review of the station's application for renewal of 
license. Although the law permits licenses up to three years, 
the Commission has resisted all pleas from the broadcasting 
industry to extend the license period beyond a year. This 
annual renewal provides a powerful check on stations. David 
Sarnoff, the head of RKO, in a broadcast discussion on 
censorship, April 20, 1938, frankly admitted: "Fear of dis- 
approval can blue-pencil a dozen programs for every one 
that an official censor might object to. While practically no- 
body advocates a pre-program blue-pencil in the hands of 
government, few realize that post-program discipline by the 
government can be a form of censorship that is all the more 
severe because it is undefined." 

The stations that have been kicked off the air are sur- 
prisingly few in number. In Iowa, Norman Baker was 
denied renewal for KNT due to his exploration of the 
"cancer cure." The Rev. Bob Shuler in California, a Metho- 
dist, lost out for bitter attacks on those he considered "moral 
enemies." In Kansas, J. R. Brinkley was silenced for adver- 
tising his "goat gland" hospital prescribing for patients he 
had never seen. The Brinkley and Shuler cases, on appeal 
to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, met 
with the decision that the commission's ruling was not the ap- 
plication of censorship but "the application of the regulatory 
power of Congress in a field within the scope of its legislative 
authority." (Trinity Methodist Church, South, v. Federal 
Radio Commission 62 F. (2) 851.) 


Private and Invisible Censorship 

Under the American system, radio stations are licensed by 
the government. They become private properties and within 
the limits of the general law are privileged to make their 
own conditions regarding programs and may deny the use 
of their facilities to anyone. 

The power of denial has resulted in private censorship 
which varies in its regulatory control. Each station has its 
own distinct plan of operation. The system of private cen- 
sorship is evidenced in several ways: 

1. Refusal to sell time or to fulfil contracts to broadcast. 

2. Required revision of the written copy. The general 
practice is for the station to demand a copy of the speech 
within a reasonable time before going on the air. Many a 
speaker who refused to revise or blue pencil his remarks has 
summarily been denied the right to the microphone. 

3. Drowning out the speaker or cutting him off in the 
middle of his talk. Explanations may take this turn: (a) the 
speaker's remarks offended the man at the controls; (b) com- 
plaints kept pouring in over the telephone; (c) the speaker 
introduced something quite different from the copy sub- 
mitted in advance; (d) the station acted to save itself as well 
as the speaker from possible suit for slander; (e) the broad- 
cast might bring down the ire of the FCC, resulting in a 
refusal to renew its license. 

Cleaning House 

Private censorship by the networks operates through de- 
partments politely called "Continuity Acceptance" (NBC) 
and "Continuity Editing" (CBS). 

The purpose of such departments is to see that programs 
live up to standards of "quality, good taste and integrity." 
In actual practice when such bureaus attempt to set stand- 


ards of equality, good taste and integrity, the station becomes 
a law unto itself. 

Douglas Gilbert in a feature article in the New York 
World-Telegram of January 8, 1939, refers to the job of 
censor of continuity as "the Number One headache job of 
America." At NBC every script for broadcasting passes for 
approval through the hands of Janette MacRorie, ex-news- 
paperwoman, press agent, and copy-writer in advertising 
agencies. If a manuscript includes material regarded as a 
violation of good taste, suggestions are made for changes 
and editing by the heads of the program and production 
department. If the speeches are of an inflammatory nature 
they reserve the attention of a higher executive who con- 
sults with legal counsel before deciding on broadcasting. 

Certain restrictions, everyone will agree, are in the public 
interest. The networks deny the microphone to those who 
would speak disparagingly of the Deity, or reflect venomously 
upon any group or race, or to those who make references to 
sex perversion. Often the networks have interpreted the 
Mores with absurd narrowness. 

On one occasion CBS deleted from a series of economic 
talks the following: "Thomas Robert Malthus, arguing 
against his father, made some startling remarks about human 
nature, and especially the strength of the sex impulse which 
led people to marry as soon as they were able." The explana- 
tion thereof: "We are not permitted to mention sex over 
the radio." 

References have strong reaction on the moral sensibili- 
ties of listeners. The words "wop," "polack," "kike," are 
offensive. Sectional jibes as between one state and another 
are taboo, except for certain types of inoffensive comedy. 
Florida climate must not be over-glorified at the expense of 
California, nor is a Southerner to be referred to as lazy. 
Other bans follow the precautions of common sense. In 
expounding detective serials NBC follows the behest of 


the Department of Justice and omits all description of prac- 
tical methods of cracking a safe or dynamiting a bridge. 
The technique of using burglar tools is not a part of edu- 
cational broadcasting. 

A program when finally evolved may be without any sign 
of internal censorship. The sponsored program is subject to 
every variety of change and deletion. Walter O'Keefe takes a 
satirical fling at the growing body of censors. Says the humor- 
ist: "When a script is written for representation on the radio 
today, there is a veritable horde of termites who get busy 
with blue pencil and shears. The radio network is one 
group. The advertising agency another. The client, his 
sales manager, his Aunt Minnie and grandchildren are 
another. If you were to band them all together there would 
be enough people present to watch a street parade go by." 

Sounding the Alarm 

Attempts at indirect and ex-post factor censorship by the 
FCC have always awakened national protest. Let us con- 
sider a few recent cases. 

The first case which brought on its censorship aftermath 
was the Adam and Eve skit on the Charlie McCarthy pro- 
gram in 1937. W r e have already mentioned that the FCC 
first demanded a copy of the script and a recording of the 
broadcasting. Chairman McNinch reprimanded the National 
Broadcasting Company for permitting the program to go 
over its network. He added the ominous threat that the 
program would be taken into consideration when each of 
the NBC stations involved applied for license renewals. Since 
many of these stations were merely affiliates of the network, 
they had no opportunity to pass upon the program in 

The second case originated from the complaint of a couple 
in the Northwest who, on the night of July 28, 1937, heard 


profanity uttered over WTCN, Minneapolis, as part of the 
broadcast of Eugene O'Neill's "Beyond the Horizon." This 
station, and the affiliates of NBC which carried the pro- 
gram, was set for a hearing in the matter of license renewal. 
Immediately there arose public protest against the Commis- 
sion's threat to censor the work of a literary artist. The 
press came to the rescue of the Pulitzer prize winner of 1920, 
and the Commission squirming under ridicule quickly re- 
versed itself by granting all the stations license renewals 
without hearings. 

In the "Beyond the Horizon" case, the testimony of John 
F. Royal, vice president of NBC, in charge of programs, is 
revealing. During cross examination by FCC counsel Royal 
explained that the language complained of as profane was 
voiced by a pious father who is shocked at his son's short- 
comings. "You can go to hell for that" is not a profane utter- 
ance, but an admonition. 

The third case is the Orson Welles' dramatization of H. G. 
Wells' "The War of the Worlds." As Raymond Moley puts 
it: "The slip of the 'Martian invasion' provoked the FCC 
to insert its 'inquisitorial proboscis' even further into the 
radio business." The danger of governmental interference, 
Moley would have us believe, "is as fearsome to intelligent 
people as the thought of a real invasion from Mars could 
possibly be." Commissioner McNinch while admitting that 
the commission had no censorship authority, called officials 
of the three major networks to Washington for an informal 
conference. As a result, it was suggested that to prevent 
undue public alarm and panic, the broadcasters use great 
care in the use of the terms "bulletin" and "flash" in radio 
fictional dramatization. 

The anti-semitic crusade of Father Charles E. Coughlin 
has further intensified the drive for government censorship. 
During 1939 several efforts were made to push bills for 
Congress to create an FCC Censorship Board. 


Look, in its edition of February 14, 1938, assembled the 
more prominent cases of censorship. It has been estimated 
that more than one-half of the censorship cases arise not 
from outside protest but from inside fears that grip station 

General Hugh Johnson was in 1937 denied the right to 
read his prepared talk on syphilis. The subject itself awoke 
as much furor as the Mae West burlesque of Adam and Eve. 

However, NBC did voluntary penance for throwing the 
General off the air by permitting Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor 
of the Journal of the American Medical Association, to dis- 
cuss the topic General Johnson could not mention. "It is 
our feeling," read the telegram of invitation to Dr. Fishbein, 
"that only persons, who, like yourself are authoritative on 
the subject and who are experienced in speaking on it are 
qualified to present the material in terms which the general 
listener can accept." CBS, early in 1938, without question 
opened the microphone to General Pershing, Dr. Ray Ly- 
man Wilbur, and Dr. Thomas Parran, all semi-official spokes- 
men for National Social Hygiene Day. 

Another emergency arose from the order of the Commis- 
sion operated May 23, 1939, which required that interna- 
tional stations must "reflect the culture of this country" 
and "promote a national good will, understanding, and 
cooperation." The measure was vehemently attacked in Con- 
gress by Representative McLeod of Michigan as a usurpation 
of the powers of the FCC whose only duty was "to prevent 
confusion in the air" by allocation of wave-lengths as a 
guard against indecency or libel. Even the National Council 
on Freedom From Censorship of the American Civil Liber- 
ties Union protested that the order was so worded that it 
smacked of censorship and interference of the right of free 
speech. It asked the Commission to reconsider, to withdraw 
its action so that the radio industry and the public might 
be consulted before it became operative. The NAB through 


its president, Neville Miller, warned that if international 
broadcasting was to be continued as private enterprise the 
FCC should not tie the stations down to the commission's 
concept of American culture. If the FCC had such authority 
in demanding the international field it must have equal 
authority over domestic broadcasting and the way was open 
for the FCC to meddle with all forms of cultural entertain- 
ment on the air. 

The public is on the qui vive against those who would 
determine with absolutism what is "good" broadcasting. 

Senator Vandenburg, in the midst of a tirade against 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was cut off when he at- 
tempted to use a transcribed disc of the President's voice. 
Norman Thomas, leader of the Socialist Party, was often 
summarily cut off the air by operation of the station's cen- 
sorship. In spite of the law which grants political candidates 
equal right to buy time, Earle Browder was banned by Sta- 
tion WIRE. 

During 1936, Alexander Woollcott bitterly complained 
about being throttled by his commercial sponsor, "Cream 
of Wheat" over the CBS chain: "It would be unfair to both 
myself and my sponsor to continue under censorship." Wooll- 
cott had a loose and appreciative audience and was con- 
sidered valuable. 

"I replied that mine was a kind of oral column, presenting 
me as a citizen leaning over the fence and talking freely 
with his neighbors. If the broadcasts had any audience it 
was because my obliging neighbor enjoyed listening to me 
report my likes and dislikes on books, plays, pictures and 
events of the day. 

"I also said I could not in self-respect guarantee to keep 
silent about Hitler, Mussolini or any other bully, jingo or 
lyncher. It would be unfair both to myself and my sponsor 
to try and continue under censorship, for the fact that taboos 


existed would lessen my own interests in the broadcasts and 
make them deteriorate in short order." 

And Walter Winchell frankly admitted on one occasion: 
"I cannot finish this editorial because NBC has deleted it." 
General Smedley Butler was distinguished for his profuse 
use of strong language. He ironically agreed that he would 
use only two "hells" and three "damns" every ten minutes 
he was on the air. "I can't talk soldier's language over these 
deodorizers," he said, "so prepare yourself for seventeen 
minutes of tripe and bedtime stories." 

Many groups protest against tampering with the musical 
classics. Maxine Sullivan rose to popular acclaim in spite of 
the ban of several stations which censored her "swinging" 
of "Loch Lomond." And the Commission was obliged to rule 
that stations could swing Bach to their hearts' content. 

Equal Opportunity for All 

Is there such a thing as freedom of the air? The answer 
is "No." Any man may hire a hall or stand on a soap box 
to have his say, or he may break out in a printed pamphlet. 
If he seeks the microphone to air his views, he may be up 
against a stone wall. If his subject is controversial, the net- 
works will not sell him time. The very nature of the com- 
mercial system militates against him. He will be told that 
Radio is a business and that commercial commitments have 
priority. He must be satisfied with the explanation that the 
stations use "wise discretion" in selecting speakers. 

Stations are too ready to defend their attitudes on the 
ground that the matter is too controversial, engenders race 
conflict, concerns a subject too indelicate to broach over 
the air, or involves an attack on some special class or interest. 

The American Civil Liberties Union in 1936 published 
a brochure by Minna F. Kassner and Lucien Zacharaoff, 
Radio is Censored, in which seventy of such cases have been 


analyzed. The authors contend that the chief danger lies in 
the fact that broadcasting has become "a tremendous mo- 
nopoly of public entertainment, opinion and education. 
Under such conditions the problem of censorship is magni- 
fied a thousand fold." 

The fact that broadcasts by Consumers Research and 
other similar organizations are violently opposed by adver- 
tisers is convincing proof that profit and not public welfare 
is of paramount concern with the vast majority of adver- 
tisers. Sponsors, in most instances, are unwilling to have 
their products subjected to scientific criticism or to have 
their claims and advertising "blurb" tested by facts. They de- 
pend, for the most part, upon the uncritical attitude of the 
majority of listeners. 

Private censorship becomes a deadly enemy to free ex- 
pression when stations use their power of censorship fearful 
lest they lose caste with the public as "radical." A station 
thinks things over twice before lending its wave length to 
speakers who propose social legislation which the big inter- 
ests and the various pressure groups oppose. The most bane- 
ful influence of private censorship is found in all those 
self-restraints which operate through mis judgment of what 
constitutes propriety and extreme caution in surrendering 
the microphone to anyone who upholds an unpopular cause. 

Stations are particularly anxious to put the soft pedal 
on labor conditions and monopolistic control of industry. 
Many vital questions affecting the social welfare are thwarted. 
A strict ban blots out talks on birth control, lynching, paci- 
fism, communism and sex matters. 

Under the two specific provisions which bar objectionable 
language and grant the right of political candidates to equal 
time on the air, many are the inconsistencies and evasions 
which are possible. It is becoming more difficult for stations 
to violate the political provision with impunity. 

Things have not changed much since 1931 when Vita 


Lauter and Joseph H. Friend wrote in the Forum: "Clearly, 
anything which does not suit the taste or doctrines of the 
broadcaster may be outlawed as indecent, obscene, or pro- 
fane, whether it be a sober discussion of the sociological 
implications of contraception, burlesque skit, a defense of 
agnosticism, or an oration in praise of beer and wine." 

During the 1939 chain-monopoly inquiry before the FCC, 
Lenox R. Lohr then president of NBC, warned that if in- 
dividuals or groups could compel the stations to give them 
time, the result would be a virtual destruction of the Amer- 
ican system of broadcasting. The air would be cluttered with 
oratory and the public would become thoroughly disgusted. 
He insisted that the network executives must have freedom 
to determine who is to have speaking opportunities. 

NBC proclaims its policy to give conflicting factions equal 
chance to discuss vital issues. Theoretically time is not sold 
for such purposes because of the inequality that would 
result when opposing groups lack equal financial backing. 
The use of the "wise discretion" of the networks usually 
coincides with freedom for the conservatives and the gagging 
of radicals and liberals. Selectivity of this kind sharpens 
the sword of propaganda for the favored interests. 

The broadcasting of false information and deceptive argu- 
ment intended to distort public opinion. Pressure groups 
select values in the news that fit their own ends, exaggerate 
or strangulate facts, misinterpret, and carry on a campaign 
whose effect on public opinion may be worse than if the 
information were to be entirely withheld. 

Stations have permitted irresponsible news commentators 
to have free sway on commercial programs even though they 
filled the air with falsehood and distorted viewpoint for 
the benefit of the sponsor. 

Under our democratic system counter-broadcasts are nec- 
essary to maintain balance in appeal. The whole concept of 
freedom in broadcasting is based on fair play, which gives 


both sides an even break, permitting the listener to judge 
for himself. 

Eternal vigilance is the price of free radio speech. Woe 
to the country if its radio is captured by the administration 
in power to the exclusion of its critics. 

Radio cannot alter human nature, cannot be expected to. 
It can do its share to combat the inherent prejudices, igno- 
rance, and self interest of humanity. 

Totalitarian states go to extremes in maintaining and 
preserving the national unity of public opinion. Radio cen- 
sorship is used for the purpose of: (i) suppressing the news; 
(2) misrepresenting the news; (3) spreading untruths. The 
people think as the ruling interests want them to think, 
largely because information on which to make judgments 
has been suppressed. 

This situation is envisaged by Edward P. Cheyney in his 
summary of the censorship study for the Annals: 

"The extent to which the broadcasting companies will 
allow the expression of views which they thought directly 
opposed to their interests as capitalistic organizations, has 
not yet been seriously tested. If the ownership of the great 
networks should come into the hands of men of special in- 
terest or narrow or fanatical views, the owners could per- 
haps even under the present law restrain their property from 
being used for any other purpose than they do not approve. 
A radio network owned or controlled by a Hearst or a Huey 
Long might offer little opportunity for the expression of 
views different from their own." 

The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, 
in its 1936 survey, "Broadcasting and the Public," recom- 
mends: A prime requirement, of course, is that the build- 
ing of codes shall be a process in which every agency cap- 
able of representing a valid social concern shall participate. 
On the side of the industry, this means owners of stations 
and networks, management, labor, and the commercial spon- 


sors. On behalf of the community it means the schools, the 
churches, the libraries, and voluntary cultural associations 
of all types that can represent a "consumer interest." No such 
cooperation was evidenced. The NAB is a Town unto itself. 

1. The evaluation of broadcasting as a community service. 
Some attempt at cooperation has already been set up at the 
behest of the broadcasters. They have placed leading edu- 
cators on their payrolls and have entered into conferences 
with professionals and organized groups. 

2. A continual interchange of opinion between official, 
intelligent and public-spirited representatives of such groups 
and the broadcasters themselves. 

While fundamental changes in programs have been sug- 
gested by such committees, little or nothing can be done 
about releasing the peak hours to programs of high cultural 
standards that bring no revenue. Such peak hours are held 
sacred for the sponsor to air programs that often pander to 
the lowest common denominator of taste, and similar pat- 
terns emerge simultaneously from scores of stations. 

3. The rights of the community to the best service that 
can be provided under the naturally limited channels for a 
more expansive definition of the term "public interest" to 
include the social obligations of the broadcaster program 
and criteria beyond that of the requirements of decency. 
No complete formal statement of regard to the control of the 
"public interest" has ever been made. 

4. Self -regulation of commercial broadcasting under an 
industry code co-operatively formulated. In July 1936, the 
National Association of Broadcasters adapted such a code. 

No such cooperation was evidenced. The NAB was a law 
unto itself. 

5. Commercial sponsors who in the guise of entertain- 
ment present propaganda anti-social in purpose. Educational 
groups can do much to curb their influence. 

6. Many suggestions have been made for the creation of a 


research bureau set up by the federal commission to make 
an annual survey of the public taste and outline a series of 
programs. In this wise the government would have some 
voice in entertainment matters and provide a bureau for 
the listener to register his interests as well as complaints. 

In 1938 a bill sponsored by Chairman McNinch provided 
for a new "research department" to receive a "listener 
response to radio programs." Against such a provision of im- 
plied regulation and censorship General Hugh S. Johnson 
broke out in strong protest and passed the buck to the pub- 
lic: "Radio programs are a commodity of commerce. If the 
public does not buy them, they die. If the public approves, 
they go, like Charlie McCarthy. It doesn't require any fed- 
eral commission to decide what the public likes in radio any 
more than one is needed to decide what the public likes in 
bran flakes, rupture trusses, or automobiles. There is no test 
of what the public wants to compare with this public 

The sponsors have very carefully examined the mental 
age of the listeners, but the listeners have not made many 
inquiries about the mental age of the sponsors. The public 
usually apathetic can be best served by spokesmen who have 
at heart the public interest. 

7. Through the American Civil Liberties Union a bill 
presented in Congress provided that each station set aside 
regular periods at "desirable parts of the day and evening 
for uncensored discussions on a non-profit basis of public, 
social, political and economic problems and for educational 
purposes," and that stations presenting a controversial sub- 
ject, broadcast at least one opposing point of view, the sta- 
tion, but not the speakers to be released from liability for 
libel in such cases. 

8. Raymond Gram Swing suggests that the two systems, 
NBC and CBS pool their resources in cooperation with the 
government. The government would thus enter the sphere 


of broadcasting, directing and financing programs of the 
two networks. An alternative is the operation of broadcasting 
service by a mixed commission under a government chair- 

9. Raymond Gram Swing also suggests that there are pro- 
grams which the broadcasting companies cannot profitably 
supply which the government has a duty to supply. This 
supplemental service could be made available free of charge 
to commercial stations. He suggests the use of twelve large 
powerful long-wave stations, enough to cover the country, 
to provide the programs not supplied by the commercial 



PITY the poor sponsor! Always he is under attack. Minor- 
ity groups are on the watch for his sins of omission and 
commission. How can one get an impartial perspective on 
the deeds of the sponsor? For one thing, imagine an inhabi- 
tant of Mars making the sudden discovery of the American 
wave lengths. 

There he is, sitting up in that other planet tuned in on a 
jargon of commercial programs which, let us assume, Mar- 
tian sense enables him to instantly translate. "America," he 
would say, "is a funny kind of world." He could only think 
of Americans eating extraordinary varieties of package foods, 
purchasing multifarious drugs, suffering from chronic con- 
stipation, fearing their own unbearable body odors, smoking 
cigarettes inordinately, borrowing money on household 
goods, perpetually chewing gum, struggling to get rid of 
pustulate complexions, and suffering from a wide variety of 
physical, mental and moral complaints which can be allevi- 
ated by a Product produced by an omnipotent Person 
known as the Sponsor. 

The late Heywood Broun recommended such brief and 
honest announcement as follows: "The cigarette is not made 
of the finest tobacco which can be grown. We have no special 
process of preparation which is peculiar to ourselves. We 
merely say here is the XYZ not necessarily the best, but 
a good cigarette for the money. We hope you like it." And 
having said that much, the sponsor might graciously step 
aside and leave the evening to his orchestra or comedians 
or his tenors. 

The common tendency is to enlist the services of movie 



stars who gush about this or that product and what it 
does for them. Listeners are becoming suspicious of such 
endorsements. The obvious hollow and insincere praise 
strikes the ear as carefully studied parrot-stuff. 

Dinty Doyle interprets the listener's reaction in this 
fashion: "Suppose Miss McGimple does wash her socks in 
so-and-so's soap, it won't make her a better radio actress. 
And when she boasts about the Mud she uses, that loses 
strength because we know we never see her without that 
Panchromatic 29 makeup, and any Mud couldn't make her 
beautiful anyway." 

The efforts of Jack Benny and others to kid the products 
may bring about an agreeable reaction, but when a man 
distinguished in the arts is forced from his role as enter- 
tainer and educator to the role of pitchman, the sensitive 
listener resents the imposition. Clifton Fadiman has ex- 
pressed his dislike for Boake Carter who mixed newscasting 
with the virtues of Philco Radio. "A serious, reputable man 
suddenly being shoved into a personality which because it 
is not his own, is vulgar." 

Commercial advertising likewise suffers from the number 
of commercial announcements and their inordinate length 
and dullness. Deems Taylor looks with hope on the esthetic 
and persuasive possibilities of commercial announcing. He 
has devised an ideal opening announcement which will be 
phrased like this. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This 
is Howard Clancy speaking. I am introducing a program of 
radio entertainment sponsored by the manufacturers of 
Houndstooth. We hope you'll try Houndstooth some time, 
and we hope you'll like our program. Our opening number 
tonight is the overture to Smetana's opera, 'The Bartered 
Bride,' conducted by Sigmund Romberg." 

If the stark truth can be faced it can be said that the 
reason why the commercial patter in Irene Rich's dramatic 
show occupies one third to one half of the fifteen minute 


period is that the blurbs sell so much more grapejuice. 
One critic coarsely remarks after listening to the patter, "I 
needed smelling salts." 

Give the sponsor his due. The sponsor who wants to re- 
strain his message to conform to best taste is faced with the 
lesson of experience. He knows that many programs which 
carry the most hammering and insistent advertising have 
proved to be the best money-getters. 

Radio advertising fattens on the credulity of men and 
women. Their imagination is stirred by bizarre claims. Young 
and old are intrigued. Extraordinary promises are held out 
for skin lotions, face powders, tooth paste, hair tonics, laxa- 
tives and a thousand and one products, each of which is ex- 
ploited as an absolute necessity for a happy and complete 

The sponsor holds the amazing power to sell people things 
they do not want, and at the same time making them think 
they are having a favor bestowed upon them. 

The reaction of the listener to such high-pressure seduc- 
tions has been compared with the way in which most people 
approach a fortune teller or the reader of horoscopes. 
"They don't really believe it," says Roy S. Durstine, "but 
they aren't quite willing to disbelieve it." 

Social urges of society are often exploited with the com- 
mercial theme song. Every element in personal ambition is 
vaulted to the skies fortune, success, power, and every solu- 
tion to the problem of the human soul is held forth. A. L. 
Alexander's Goodwill Court unearthed the most pathetic 
and hopeless cases of misery to entice profits for the networks 
and advertisers. 

Sponsors are the copy-cats of the radio industry. A suc- 
cessful program finds scores of similar patterns. Entertain- 
ment features are cast in one mould. Radio at its best is 
slow to invent entertainment peculiarly suited for broad- 
casting. The sponsor finds it far easier to turn to the true 


and tried. He searches out methods and material of the 
legitimate stage, musical revue, the comic strip, newspaper 
features, and Tin Pan Alley. It is easy for the sponsor to take 
refuge in the plea, "That's what the people want." 

Sponsors are accused of being too humble in the presence 
of well-known names. Mediocre talents are often glorified. 
Many sponsors take their cue from the movies and so parallel 
all the inanities of Hollywood, in both production and 

Sponsor's interference in the production of programs 
is the stock jest of radio. One of them has been known to 
command his orchestra leader to quicken or slow down 
tempo, and Heywood Broun called attention to an excel- 
lent master of ceremonies who lost his job because the sister- 
in-law 7 of a sponsor felt that he wasn't suave enough. 

Sponsors are blamed for the lack of balance in programing 
as an essential part of radio showmanship. Balance calls for 
the placement in programs in such spot positions as will 
afford listeners the maximum of variety and relief. Show- 
manship calls for the principles of billing familiar in the 
theater. Important acts are put in the most advantageous 
spot, short acts are followed by longer ones and similar acts 
are separated one from the other. Radio which still boasts 
of its showmanship is still at the mercy of the sponsors. A 
law unto themselves, sponsors pay for time, and are per- 
mitted to select choice hours, and as a result there is a mad 
rush for position and billing. 

The listener must take his fare and at such times and in 
whatever quality and quantity the station decrees. Jazz bands 
sizzle in succession, and the station defies every element of 
variety and balance. The station itself passes the buck for 
this condition. Too much opposition and he will turn to a 
rival station if not given the favorite spot selected by him. 
It is an idle dream to think that radio needs a Will Hays or 
a Judge Landis who, as a super-program director, will main- 


tain an agreeable ratio in the types of commercial programs 
and maintain an artistic balance and variety. Neither the 
sponsor nor the station would be amenable to such adminis- 
trative supervision and strong-arm methods. 

History of Blurbs 

Techniques of air advertising are in constant flux and 
have undergone important changes. Some months after the 
inception of the sponsored program, the commercial an- 
nouncement wormed its way gently into the program. 

The first commercial announcement was the ultimate in 
abbreviation. The sponsor was satisfied with a single sen- 
tence: "The Happiness Stores have engaged the facilities 
of Station WEAF." Direct selling was not aimed at. 

In the period about 1926, sponsors began to encroach on 
their programs with more decisive methods. There are signs 
of the coming practice of frequently interrupting the pro- 
gram with a slogan. The listener was urged to send in fan 
mail. There was a strong scramble to secure listener response 
with the use of contests during the years 1931 and 1932. 

It was as easy as pie. Experiments proved that money 
could be made by making for good will expressed in terms 
of purchasing. This was similar to the direct sales message 
used in newspapers and magazines. Advertising agencies 
took the most familiar rosy route. 

The modern period, between the years 1932-38, struggles 
for new forms of expression, and skilfully adapts tricks of 
advertising logic in dialogue, comedy and drama. 

Every sponsor is still groping for the perfect method of 
oral appeal. Before such a simple and infallible method is 
discovered it may be that the American system of adver- 
tising has disappeared from the scene. 

By trial-and-error the sponsors have worked out about 
the same general style. Everything in air salesmanship 


methods has been borrowed from newspaper practice and 
from psychology. The natural program by its very nature 
harmoniously blends with the nature of the product. The 
best examples of these programs as a type are Death Valley 
Days, the dramatic presentation for the 20 Mule Team Borax 
Company. Time magazine in the "March of Time" program 
has an extraordinary correlation. 

Types of Ballyhoo Announcers 

First comes the unctious announcer. This is an unctious 
pleading in dulcet tones, soft, insinuating and powerfully 
appealing to women. No woman would be able to accom- 
plish the same results by the power of voice. The art of 
ballyhoo here goes pianissimo, instead of commanding, it 

Second, there's the type of radio salesman who goes off 
in a perfect frenzy of anxiety. Here the tone of the voice 
takes on the manner of a street barker who would pull you 
in to buy. His only object is to make you feel that you are 
missing something and must buy now. 

Ordinarily you would laugh in the face of a salesman 
whose rhythmic voice over the counter in the store poetizes 
the sales points. What would happen to a salesman who 
began shouting to you or who brought his fists down on the 
table to emphasize every argument. 

An intrusion on the rights of the listener. An example 
of such intrusion is the news commentator who is ordered 
to take over the role of announcer and read the commercial 
in a serious and pompous tone as if it were part of the news. 
The listener is caught off guard. This kind of forceful feed- 
ing through the eardrums makes the listener inimical. Boake 
Carter and Edwin C. Hill have been among the worst of- 
fenders in this respect. 

Another intrusion is the injection of commercials at 


crucial moments in radio drama. A tense climax is reached. 
There is a fanfare of music. You gasp for breath wondering 
what will happen, when suddenly the announcer blazes 
forth on the virtues of his product. 

The obtrusion of advertising on the De Mille program 
shatters the illusions of a large percentage of listeners. These 
De Mille Hollywood programs rate high in all the telephone 
surveys and the sponsor has a tremendous audience. The 
show is genuinely enjoyable until the curtain drops. This 
is the signal for the deus ex machine to fling a hurricane of 
Lux soapflakes throughout the land, and at the same time 
discourse on its virtues. 

There are no secrets about the basic methods used. The 
more prominent means used today are: 

1. Dramatization. Rinso sales dramatization, wherein a 
couple quarrel over the washing of dishes with the husband 
standing on his lord-and-master rights of non-cooperation 
with the after-meal debris, was the sort of radio advertising 
that makes people smile indulgently. Its absurdity is not, 
however, necessarily askew with the aims of advertising. 
Even the smilers got the idea use Rinso and you don't 
have to dry the dishes. Cutting one process in the dish laun- 
dering problem. 

2. Dialogue between the announcer and other characters. 
This is "foreign" stuff to one who does not know the char- 
acters or their physical characteristics which are being ex- 
ploited for comedy effects. A fat man or a man with a wig 
becomes the target for witticisms, and when his physical 
presence is envisaged the wit becomes sharper. 

3. Ridicule and ribbing of the "commercials." 

4. The enlistment of guest performers as part of the sales 

5. Shame tactics threats of withdrawal of the program if 
the listener does not make purchases of the advertised 

6. Mention of price. Until 1932 mention of price was for- 
bidden by the networks. 


Type of Salesman 

This is the good-fellow type. He slaps you on the back 
and calls you by your first name or hails you as a long-lost 
brother. This kind of familiarity over the air gives the 
sensitive listener the feeling of the cheapness of the sponsor 
and repels rather than attracts. 

Then there is the air salesman who under-talks. This type 
is a rarity, and is mainly confined to comedians who razz the 
product of their sponsors. 

Your opening sentence often opens or closes the door to 
a sale. 

Sales plugs are the curse of radio. Under the command of 
the sponsor, the sales announcers sound like robots reciting 
flights of rhetoric. Some of this stuff may read well in print 
but it sounds terrible on the air. 

In general complaints launched against commercial bally- 
hoo may be grouped: (i) boastful and fraudulent; (2) too 
lengthy; (3) repetitious; (4) spoken by disagreeable voices; 
(5) offensive in plan and scope. 

Some people have sales resistance for very good reasons. 
It was the custom of Lilas Butterworth and Parks Johnson 
to hand out a tube of shaving cream at the end of each Vox 
Pop interview. They soon developed the habit of rushing 
away from the recipient to the next one. There was a reason. 
One mad night a man turned down the gift, saying, "I use 
an electric razor." 

Minority groups hold out little hope that the sponsors 
will voluntarily conform to the canons of good taste in com- 
mercial announcements. It is ironically predicted that com- 
mercial radio will have seen its demise long before perfec- 
tion in the art of ballyhoo is achieved. 

But surely even the most severe critic of air advertising 
will admit that there are guiding principles that will soften 
complaints, and make air salesmanship at least partially 


endurable. The following tests for acceptable announcements 
are offered: 

1. Is it free from fraud or misrepresentation? 

2. Does it present worth-while information regarding the 
product that is in itself interesting and appealing? 

3. Is it spoken in a manner that is agreeable to the ear? 

4. Does it possess that personal touch which is equal to 
the personal solicitation of a salesman who calls on you? 

5. Is the sales proposition so well clarified that the listener 
instantly understands and his interest captured? 

6. Does the sales message answer to all the requirements of 
good taste? Test the appeal of such a prospect to listeners: 
"You don't know it, but your teeth may be falling out! You 
may be on the verge of hoof and mouth disease. You have 
millions of bacteria crawling over your face at this minute." 

The protests of the clergy have not prevented the sponsors 
from using church music to advertise the merits of their 
products. In the summer of 1936, Ivory's claim to be ninety- 
nine and forty-four hundredths per cent pure was being sung 
to the accompaniment of hymns and amens. In the Easter 
season of 1937 Adam Hats sponsored a broadcast of the 
Passion Play to do justice to their headgear. 

7. Does it smack of propaganda? 

Some sponsors, Henry Ford, in 1936-7 followed the lead 
of and combined little "talks" with symphonies. W. J. 
Cameron, mouthpiece of the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, 
opens his six minute discourse by saying there will be no 
commercials. The talk is actually an attack on the mistakes 
of Franklin D. Roosevelt, no direct trouble Ford is having 
with the CIO and labor troubles. And so Cameron is sand- 
wiched in between Wagner and Debussy for "the spiritual 
refreshment of the listeners." 

8. Is the commercial part of the program integrated in 
spirit and tone and approach with the rest of the program? 


9. Is it designed to injure a competitor? 

10. Is it repeated ad nauseum? 

On a recent Energine program the product was mentioned 
thirty-two times in thirty minutes of broadcast, and in addi- 
tion, the listeners being considered stupid, had the name 
spelled out twice. 

As a radio plot for its insecticidal soap, one company regu- 
larly broadcasts an electrical transcription of a moth eating 
into a woolen suit with the sound of its chewing ampli- 
fied ten million times. This is the kind of a plug which has a 
scientific basis and mixes a bit of entertainment, education 
and advertising. 

Should the sponsor hit upon an original idea, like "Com- 
munity Sings," the program might be developed into a 
valuable property if it is worked with some compelling 
merchandising stunt that catches the public quickly. 

As to big names, Hill Blackett, president of Blackett- 
Sample-Hummert, Inc., Chicago, has the last word as the 
head of an agency which placed over eight million dollars 
on the networks in one year: "If you buy a big name in 
radio, part of your publicity goes with that name. By that I 
mean that if you pay five thousand dollars for the name, you 
will get a certain amount of publicity with it. It gets an 
audience for your program. You will get that much more 
free publicity. If you buy a bigger name, you will get that 
much more publicity. So that when you pay a great big price 
for a name, say ten thousand dollars, you pay five thousand 
dollars for ability and five thousand dollars for the publicity, 
and you get to build an audience on that. Then you could 
rely upon the publicity you got through the newspapers." 

Problems of the Rate Card 

The primary factor that determines the value of a station's 
rate card is the size of its potential listening audience. Spe- 


cial hours of the day, however, are more valuable. At two 
o'clock in the morning more than three-fourths of the com- 
munity are asleep. From eight to ten p.m. are considered the 
most valuable hours of the day. Other factors are the time 
of the week and presence of competing programs that come 
at the same hour. Much depends on the program that pre- 
cedes or follows. The theory is that a listener will not take 
the trouble to change his dial when some highly popular 
broadcast precedes. The prestige of a station also affects 
the rate card. 

The station salesman will try to convince his prospective 
sponsor of the estimated coverage of his station, its reception 
in the various parts of the country and its general repute 
with the listener. He will laud the station for the results 
that he has already obtained for other sponsors. He will 
avail himself of the statistics furnished by his company that 
breaks the listening into groups according to income, pro- 
gram interests and the specific time of day when they tune 
in to his station. 

Day Time Serials 

Foods and cosmetic articles that are bought cheaply by 
the housewife for the household are best exploited in the 
daytime. In a general way, whenever the product is to be 
used by every member of the family, maximum circulation 
is obtained at night time. 

Daytime programs are concerned mainly with the story 
element and not with the exploitation of big names. The 
actors in many instances remain unmentioned. The ingen- 
ious succession of episodes, the mixture of comedy with 
pathos and sentiment pull at the heart strings and unloosen 
the purse. Carleton E. Morse, author and producer of "One 
Man's Family" hit upon a formula which he calls "an ap- 
peal to the audience in a mob psychology fashion." The 
programs he recommends "should incorporate a large cast, a 


cast of people who are not temperamental artists, just human 
beings. Secondly, the program, as already established, should 
contain no instances that would sound or could be inter- 
preted as being out of the ordinary, that could be anything 
but human interest. The show should blend, should tug at 
the heart strings of every mother and father in the country. 
In brief, 'One Man's Family' would sell Tender Leaf Tea 
b'ecause it would be subdued and respectable and would 
command the undivided interest of every one who listened." 
The commercials are subtly interwoven with the program 
itself. In "One Man's Family," the show is halted with a 
fade-in of the organ, which is followed by a short announce- 
ment, and then the family is "seen" again. Woven into this 
little drama within a drama are the commercials for Tender 
Leaf Tea of Standard Brands. One week Jack builds up a 
rhyme of Tender Leaf Tea and the next week Clifford has 
added another stanza, which all the family delights in repeat- 
ing. Or else testimonials are very artfully subtended when 
Mrs. Barbour gives a tea on the patio. Listeners are cajoled, 
coaxed and interested into purchasing a product because 
they feel a kinship with each member of the radio family. 
In short, Carleton E. Morse advises "find out what the public 
wants, give it to them, and your radio program will be a suc- 
cess." This seems a very simple formula. 

It was the sponsors who provided the spur for the creation 
of the networks. Advertisers whose products took on quick- 
ened sales after being exploited over local stations sought 
within a span of a few years wider markets. In theory, sta- 
tions are authorized under the law to render a public service. 
The government does not hand over a franchise for the 
benefit of advertisers. It is not the function of stations to be 
mere selling agencies located in convenient centers. Stations 
soon found that were they to practice sheer altruism in pro- 
viding programs they would soon become bankrupt. Some 
attempt was made at cooperation in the beginning among the 


manufacturers of radio equipment with the request for con- 
tributions of money, but this met with small response. 

The first commercial broadcast whet the appetite of the 
stations. For a fixed sum the advertiser gained the right to 
make a brief announcement. It was all so intriguing in the 
beginning and the formula quite simple. Time was money. 
Advertisers began a march on the strongholds of radio. The 
stations received them with open arms and rescued them from 
the fate of bankruptcy. Stations did not at the outset ques- 
tion what advertisers said on the air. It was not until 1934 
that the FCC took steps to keep broadcasting from unlawful 
advertising. The public trust had been betrayed. Many a 
station had been maintaining itself by spreading false, mis- 
leading and fraudulent advertising. The purge continues. 
The FCC has no authority to censor advertising. It can issue 
edicts as to what the advertiser may not say. A "Cease" and 
"Desist" order issued against any advertiser by the Commis- 
sion takes such a program off the air. 

The conflict against "Ballyhoo" on the air is sharply 
drawn. A large class would pluck out advertising by the 
very roots, others would accept a compromise. That com- 
promise lies in restraining the tenor of advertising and 
keeping it within the bounds of good taste, balance and un- 
obtrusiveness. Millions, however, do not complain. Answers 
cannot regard this apathy to the general public as disap- 
proval. The public buys the product but the sophisticate 
remains unhappy and irrestive under the whip of over-com- 
mercialism. An intelligent minority strongly organized is 
more powerful than large numbers are inarticulate. Already 
critical groups under wise leadership have bestirred broad- 
casters to a new sense of duty. From time to time the opin- 
ions of the minority are sought by the FCC and its voice is 
heard in varied legislative hearings and educational con- 
ferences. The general feeling is that the minority will eter- 


nally have to be vigilant of good taste in programs and ad- 

Some claim that an over zealousness on the part of the 
minority may legislate advertisers out of existence and thus 
deprive stations of the revenue to carry on. The whole in- 
stitution of broadcasting would then revert to the govern- 
ment. It is this fear of a bureaucracy controlled by radio that 
compels broadcasters to more strictly consider their pro- 
grams on the basis of both public interest, convenience and 

Radio offers a competitive sphere for performing artists 
of the highest rank. Only a financially strong sponsor can 
command these artists who under any other system than the 
commercial might not be available. The cost is borne by 
those who buy the product and it may amount to the tiniest 
fraction of a cent when spread over combined national sales. 

The Over Commercialized Programs 

Sponsors have discovered that the cheap program weighted 
down with insistent sales talk, often pays far better than the 
so-called high class program. The sponsor is not engaged in 
the educational uplift. If he can accomplish good as a by- 
product and still sell his own he is satisfied. The sponsor 
however can be brought in line with the prophesy that 
abuse of his right to create programs will mean the hand- 
writing on the wall, the end of the commercial system. . . . 
He can be shown that programs with appropriate commer- 
cial restraint will in the long run insure for him a larger 
audience that not only listens but buys. 

The Box-top Fusillade 

Sponsors were quick to take advantage of the Yankee craze 
of "something for nothing." The boom started in the early 
days has gone on with astonishing vigor year by year. 


Radio became the hand-maiden of merchandising tie-ins. 
Marion Davies not only heralded the ear of big names but 
provided inspiration for the box-top fusillade of the radio 
century. On the Mineralva program she extolled the virtue 
of a mud-pack beautifier and promised an autographed pho- 
tograph to those who wrote in. This was in 1923. Over fif- 
teen thousand of her votaries, a large number for those days, 
besought the likeness of the screen star. 

Goodrich Rubber Company, in 1923 offered a crossword 
puzzle booklet. More than two hundred thousand listeners 
sent in for the booklet and the Akron Post Office groaned 
under the new burden. Goodrich changed its offer and told 
listeners to call on the forty thousand Goodrich dealers over 
the country. In this way three million crossword booklets 
went into the hands of listeners. The air is filled with "box- 
top" and "label" requests; hundreds of thousands of entries 
are submitted; pages of publicity are given contests and 
winners. Alton Cook tells the story about Fred Allen who, 
on one of his programs, "slipped in a line jovially inviting 
listeners to tear off the tops of their radios and send them 
in. Sure enough, seven tops of radios arrived during the 
next few days, each one from a radio listener who liked 
the idea of writing a witty letter. At another time, long ago, 
when Roy Atwell was on the Allen program, an offer was 
made to exchange some of Atwell's used razor blades for 
manhole covers. Jocular listeners rose to their opportunity. 
Manhole covers, on which transportation costs are terrific, 

Everyone will remember the little fireman's hat which Ed 
Wynn wore when he posed for publicity pictures. That was 
the little hat which Texaco filling stations offered to give 
away to anyone asking for it. As a result of the Fire Chief's 
broadcasting over three million hats were requested by 
gasoline buying radio listeners. 

In a single brief campaign Pepsodent sold two million 


tubes of tooth paste through the efforts of Amos 'n' Andy. 
In an announcement before and after the sketch, Pepsodent 
offered to give any listener who sent in two carton covers 
in which Pepsodent was packed a free bottle of mouthwash. 
The announcement was continued for limited time, or until 
one million bottles of mouth wash had been requested. 
These requests were accompanied by carton tops represent- 
ing five hundred thousand dollars worth of toothpaste. 

"The Singing Lady" of the Kellogg program offered to 
send a songbook to all those listeners who mailed tops from 
the Kellogg product packages. About fourteen thousand 
people a day took advantage of the offer. It is conservatively 
estimated that this was responsible for nearly one hundred 
thousand sales of Kellogg's products every week. 

The Carnation Milk Company put on a contest for a 
slogan during a weekly half-hour over thirty-seven NBC sta- 
tions. The contest lasted thirteen weeks. Over six hundred 
and fifty thousand slogans were received, most of them 
written on labels taken from the cans. 

Types of Offers and Contests 

Figures vary from year to year, but it would be safe to state 
that about seventy per cent of sponsored programs have 
offers and contests attached to them. With the vogue of con- 
tests on the air, Nick Kenny suggests that it won't be long 
before a sponsor gives himself away, and that is precisely 
what some of these advertising plugs do give themselves 
away. They make the judicious laugh. 

Cash prizes appear to be the most popular form of con- 
test. The agency must be ingenious in determining the kind 
of offer most attractive to the general listener, and consistent 
with its product. Among such offers may be listed limerick 
and jingle contests, automobile prize contests, free contests 
requiring no evidence of purchase, suggested-name contests, 


amateur contests, slogan contests, vacation trips, booklet 
offers, novelties, cook books and recipes, product offers 
(samples or gifts), household article offers, and in a special 
group, offers of personal and household articles, photographs 
of radio artists, road maps and special edition newspapers. 

Careful research indicates that all kinds of people partici- 
pate in contests. All classes of society are represented: the 
rich, the poor, the professional, the amateur; boy, girl; pro- 
fessor, husband, wife. The requirements for eligibility are 
varied. Some sponsors require part of a package from their 
products as proof of purchase. Some ask parts of two pack- 
ages; others for three boxtops or wrappers. Radio listeners 
were required to send money ranging from one cent to three 
dollars and seventy-five cents to conform with the require- 
ments of sixty-eight offers, on thirty-two different NBC pro- 
grams, in 1935. 

Sponsors are sometimes loath to reveal their contest and 
offer figures. If complete tables were prepared, they would 
make an astonishing array of statistics. They would reveal 
that eight hundred thousand children became members of 
an Orphan Annie Secret Society by submitting the seal from 
a can of Ovaltine to the Wander Company; that a General 
Motors Symphony stirred up three million people to send 
for "We Drivers" booklets; that seven million five hundred 
thousand metal initial-tags were given away by Sun Oil 
Company to all radio listeners applying at a Sun station 
and paying ten cents. 

One of the most noteworthy examples of the program pro- 
motional contest was the Lucky Strike Sweepstakes held in 
connection with the American Tobacco Company's "Your 
Hit Parade." Featuring the fifteen most popular songs of 
each week, as determined by an elaborate system of checks, 
the program added the sweepstakes idea, awarding a carton 
of Luckies to each listener who designated, in correct order, 
the three most popular songs of the following week. The 


contest was designed from the outset to be so simple that 
there would be many winners. Thus it proved dramatically 
effective as both a program promotion enterprise and a 
product sampling instrument. Winners in a single week 
reached as high a figure as 331,746, entries as high as 6,664,- 
761. During the 48 weeks of the Sweepstakes, there were 
64,665,786 entries in all, and more than 277,736,200 Lucky 
Strikes were given to winning contestants. 

A Network is Born 

Commercial advertising as such would not develop with- 
out chains. 

Sponsors who sought larger fields to conquer were faced 
with a serious problem. If they wanted programs presented 
in New York to reach listeners in distant localities, they 
had to repeat the broadcast on local stations far from the 
cities. It was difficult to duplicate the entertainment features, 
and to secure the talent which had established itself to the 
listening public. Ford McClelland's solution to the problem 
was the system of the first multiple station hookup. This 
multiple station hook-up with WEAF combined WGY 
Schenectady, KDKA Pittsburgh, KYW Chicago, and WDAF 
Kansas City. The networks soon embraced twenty-five sta- 
tions spread over New England, part of the south and as far 
west as Kansas City. 

In September 1926, the National Broadcasting Company 
was organized by the General Electric Company, the West- 
inghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company and the 
Radio Corporation of America with WEAF as the key sta- 
tion. The first two companies manufactured radio equip- 
ment, and the third was engaged in marketing these prod- 
ucts. Soon afterwards, Station WJZ owned by the Radio Cor- 
poration of America was taken over by NBC on a manage- 
ment basis. NBC was therefore enabled to offer alternative 


national programs on a double network known as the Blue 
Network and the Red Network. 

A group of capitalists seized the opportunity to establish 
another chain. In September 1927, after two years of pre- 
liminary organization the Columbia Broadcasting System 
was launched with the broadcast of Deems Taylor's opera, 
"The King's Henchman." 

The number of stations affiliated with the networks is in 
constant flux, but steadily increases. Stations in strategic cen- 
ters have either been bought outright by the mother station, 
or joined by contract. 

The networks are firmly denying that broadcasting has 
become an established monopoly. The rapid growth of the 
third coast-to-coast network has increased the alarm. The 
Mutual Broadcasting System was organized in the autumn 
of 1934. Three powerful stations, WGN in Chicago, WOR 
in New York, WXYZ of Detroit and WLW in Cincinnati 
found themselves without national network affiliations. The 
Big Four organized The Mutual Broadcasting System, and 
were freed from the rigid contractual agreements governing 
the two rival networks. All expenses, profits were to be 
equally apportioned and equally shared. 

The struggles of the first programs are a matter of history. 
Experiments with live talent succeeded those with voice and 
phonograph records. The Westinghouse bank enlisted to 
broadcast in a tent on one of the taller buildings of the 
plant. When the tent blew away, it was placed indoors. Soon 
it was discovered that a room did not interfere with fidelity 
of resonance if the room were properly draped. And with 
burlap for the covering of walls and ceiling came forth the 
first concept of the acoustically perfect studio of today. 

Only a small group was privileged to hear the first broad- 
cast. These were the amateurs who had built their own re- 
ceiving sets. The novelty was widely heralded as an amaz- 


ing development. The family gathered round the crystal 
detectors and took turns at the headphones. 

Westinghouse continued to be swamped by letters and 
telephone for more music and favorite selections. It was this 
insistent demand that led to the erection of broadcasting 
stations and the building of radio sets. The race for licenses 
was on. 

Among the first on the starting line was the Westinghouse 
properties, WBZ at Springfield, and WJZ at Newark, New 
Jersey. In New York The American Telephone and Tele- 
graph Company took hold with Station WEAF. Radio sta- 
tions began to spring up like mushrooms. 

But who was to pay for this service? The A. T. & T. was 
the first to appeal for voluntary contributions from listeners. 
Radio dealers and manufacturers were asked to contribute 
a small percentage of their annual profits to defray the costs 
of entertainment. The Radio Corporation of America, op- 
erating Station WJZ, also sought help to defray the annual 
charge of one hundred thousand dollars. The plans fell 
through because of the meager response. Only eight thou- 
sand dollars was collected, and ignominiously returned. 

It fell to George Ford McClelland to devise the scheme of 
sponsored advertising to save the day. In 1922 at the age of 
twenty eight, the American Telephone and Telegraph Com- 
pany made him General Manager of the Station WEAF. He 
found a lusty infant on his hands. Around him were other 
infant stations. McClelland reasoned that it would be wise 
to open the facilities of WEAF to individuals who wanted 
to broadcast without the necessity of building their own 

Women and Daytime 

Daylight listening is associated with strictly feminine 
audiences. The noble army of homemakers make up the 
majority of daytime audiences. These women do the largest 


portions of the marketing in the United States. They buy 
food, household equipment, home medicines, clothes, cos- 
metics and, in addition, play an important part in the 
selection of higher priced family investments such as auto- 
mobiles, refrigerators, radios, and other articles in the luxury 

Sponsors claim that they can create an appetite for almost 
any food product via the home economics program on the 
air. Elma Hackett, director of the Home Science Institute 
of KSFO (San Francisco) boasts that "women may not have 
thought of buying a can of beans today until a home econo- 
mist tells her of Blank's Fine Baked Beans, the simplicity of 
their service, the excellent meal plans that can be built 
around the product, and down she dashes to you (the grocer) 
and demands Blank's Beans." 

The daytime dramatic program is a phenomenon in radio 
broadcasting. Statistics prove that the daytime serial is almost 
a sure-fire sales creator. It is almost a perfect device for 
tying up with premiums. 

The five-day-a-week serial is an economical way to reach 
the radio audience. It has several advantages. First there are 
no high priced stars to pay. Secondly, it gains in force by 
repetition of advertising. It is aimed at women who listen 
regularly. It is not at all concerned with the male audience, 
which it alienates anyway by its mushiness and sentimen- 
tality. Thirty-five per cent of the daytime audience is com- 
posed of men, surveys indicate. If to this number is added 
the many thousands of women to whom daytime serials are 
repugnant or who only occasionally listen in you have that 
class known as the morning step-children of radio. 

The First Commercial Programs 

In the early years of broadcasting between 1920 and 1927, 
few agencies gave radio serious consideration. Station man- 


agers and their assistants put on commercial programs. The 
early sponsors were content to let the stations organize the 
entire production. Many of the basic types of program such 
as the dramatic sketches, serials, variety shows were origi- 
nated by the pioneer stations. 

Gradually the sponsor turned to his regular advertising 
agency for help. The agency began to study the new medium. 
National advertisers begrudgingly gave radio a place in their 
advertising budgets. Already experienced in the prepara- 
tion of material for magazines, billboards and newspapers, 
the agency experimented with new techniques. Many 
agencies were forced to give radio proper recognition or lose 

Advertising companies hastily organized radio depart- 
ments. This was the experimental period when radio 
directors were selected from broadcasters, account executives, 
producers, actors, students of dramatic schools, dramatic 
critics, authors, publicity men, and talent scouts. Few of 
them had any actual radio experience. Many were the blun- 
ders made in the early days. A new class of socialists in 
music drama, continuity writing and program direction 
soon came into being. Soon the responsibility for the com- 
mercial program began to shift from the station to the 

The sponsor assumed the right to create and produce 
radio entertainment. The advertising agency not only de- 
manded that right but looked for merchandising assistance 
from the station. In many instances the agency was forced 
to produce its own program because the station or the net- 
work was not able to supply the sponsor with suitable talent 
or ideas. 

Commercial advertising divided programs into two classes, 
sponsored and sustaining. The sustaining program is put on 
the air on the initiative of a broadcasting station and at its 
own expense. It fills in a period of unsold time to build up 


prestige of the station or with the ultimate view of selling 
a program. 

A new name was fastened on programs originated by 
advertisers who bought time from the station. The term 
"sponsored programs" is appropriate. For the word "sponsor" 
is derived from the Latin and means surety, one who buys 
himself to answer for another. The decision for accepting, 
revising a commercial program rests with the advertiser 
who pays the bill. When the agency prepares a commercial 
program final responsibility rests with the advertiser with 
some administrative control exercised by the station. 

Building the Commercial Program 

The commercial program starts with an idea. This idea 
dominates the basic planning of the entertainment. Radio 
ideas are cherished and guarded. A fresh and original con- 
cept that captures the imagination of listeners may capture 
millions of dollars. 

Sponsor and the agency in conference determine how 
much money is to be appropriated to radio advertising out 
of the advertising budget. In many instances the amount of 
money to be spent in broadcasting as well as the pay of the 
entertainment is left entirely to the agency whose experi- 
ence and judgment is followed. It has been estimated that 
ninety per cent of the commercial programs are prepared 
by the advertising agencies or by independent program 
builders whom the agencies consult. In direct contrast, 
almost one hundred per cent of the sustaining programs are 
created by the program department of the broadcasting 

Stations are always on the alert for program ideas that 
can be sold to prospective advertisers. The networks main- 
tain artists' bureaus to furnish talent. A preliminary client 
is made by a program board. If the idea is approved, it is 


whipped into shape by a divisional program supervisor. 
The idea evolves as a unit production. The coordinating 
departments in the networks vary. 

But the Sales Department has one function: to persuade 
the client or agency that the suggested program will have 
wide-spread appeal. It would be necessary to show the agency 
or the client how the program sounds on the air. This is 
the reason for audition. If the program is sold, it is put 
into shape by the agency subject to the whims of the sponsor. 
Only administrative control is retained by the station. 

The agency itself may create the programs as an entirely 
original offering. The ideas are thrashed out upon the radio 
roundtable of the agency. Often it is just a mere guess as to 
what will reach the tops in popularity. But once the idea is 
decided upon, the board of strategy is called into consulta- 
tion. Writers, continuity editors, artist bureaus, stars, musi- 
cal assistants, producers, agency executives, all these have 
a hand in criticizing, cutting and rebuilding the program 
to suit the needs of the client. 

The problems of the agency became manifold. It made a 
study of the scope or coverage of the various stations, the 
habits and buying power of people in different parts of the 
country, the eternal feminine appeal, the comparative results 
of daylight and evening broadcasting, in short it examined 
every aspect and bought time for sponsors after scrupulous 

Today the agency is still struggling with that unknown 
formula of perfect radio entertainment, and "showmanship" 
in advertising. A few of the, major problems of the agency 
will be considered. 

Problem i. The agency first determines whether or not 
radio should be used in preference to other media. Products 
that have a small or retail value can be sold over the air. 
It takes more than the spoken word to sell high-priced 


luxury articles. The colors of an oriental rug can more 
effectively strike home by way of the eye rather than the ear. 

Problem 2. Shall it be spot advertising? Spot advertising 
means the use of local facilities not linked by wire. It is 
used when the geography of the advertiser's market does not 
parallel the networks' or when the networks afford greater 
coverage than needed. 

Problem 3. Shall we buy big name talent or build a show 
with less expensive talent? The problem is sometimes con- 
flicting. Much depends on whether the campaign is a 
thirteen, twenty-six or fifty-two week campaign. If the pro- 
gram is to go on the air for only thirteen weeks, the sponsor 
aims to get as big an audience as possible for the very first 
show. The sponsor must get the biggest name attraction, 
such as Jack Benny. 

The advantages of spot advertising may be thus sum- 
marized: (i) Spot advertising allows for extreme flexibility. 
The sales appeal can be easily adapted to fit local conditions. 

(2) Reaches an audience at the best time in each community. 

(3) Stations can be selected to cover the markets desired, so 
that advertising can be correlated with distribution of any 
product. (4) Allows for intensive coverage of a particular 
market to boost slipping sales or the needs of aggressive 
competition. (5) Tests the selling power of an experimental 
program in introducing a new product. (6) Stimulates dealer 
distribution. (7) Affords an opportunity to select a preferred 
station in any territory. 

Important studies have been made to determine the rela- 
tive nature of printed and aural advertising. Psychologists 
agree that the eye focuses on the printed page because of 
something immediately stimulating and attractive. The 
special appeal may be the large type, the meaning, the 
printed words, the page of a magazine. The eye may take 
in only the glaring headlines of an advertisement and ignore 
the small type, if interest is not sustained. But the ear 


does not shut out the bellowing noises of the announcer 
so easily. The advertising message if skilfully inserted within 
the text of the program is received in full. The listener's 
defense is to dial off. What radio fans listen in just to hear 
commercials? Printed advertising has a way of competing 
for our interest. But the ear is not so selective, because 
sounds reach us with completeness. The listener cannot 
conveniently shut out the on-coming commercial. The 
process of turning off the dial offers more resistance than the 
turning of the magazine. 

Deftness in language and expression is necessary to build 
up the commercials. Lawrence Holcombe, continuity editor 
of NBC's Central Division in Chicago, claims that "the 
problem of the script writer is to picture the use of the 
premium so vividly that the listener will see it just as clearly 
in her imagination as she pictures the characters. 

Other Special Problems 

Competitive factors are carefully examined before con- 
tracting for time. Direct competition of similar products at 
the same time is avoided. It is more difficult to capture 
audience interest when the spot on another station has 
already firmly established itself as a superior program. Pro- 
grams that precede and follow a spot must be carefully 
evaluated, since they contribute to audience spread. If the 
preceding show is brilliant, the new program will generally 
ride along on the crest of the listener's mood. A dialer's 
patience is measured by the entertainment as he sees it. A 
program that follows Fred Allen or Major Bowes, must not 
make the listener too strongly aware of an anti-climax. 
Hence the agency selects his spot cautiously. 

Cost-per-Listener Plan. The Cost-per-Listener Plan is 
based on the use of more than one station in a market. 
Advertising agencies are now adopting this formula. The 


agencies argued that it was no more unreasonable to buy 
time on more than one station in the city than it was to 
buy space in more than one newspaper. In applying this 
principle to radio, a method seemed simple. With the 
Crossley rating of a program, the agency is able to estimate 
about how many listeners will be gained with the addition 
of each new station in exactly the same way as the gain in 
readers is estimated when an additional newspaper is added 
to an advertising schedule. Ford, Ivory, Lifebuoy, Hydrox 
and Bulova are a few of the familiar sponsors that have 
spread their campaigns or announcements on two or more 
stations in a city at the same time, so that few owners of 
radio sets could avoid hearing at least one of their sales 
messages daily. Bulova is omniaural, and for years Plymouth 
used announcements on some five hundred stations, often 
using every station in a city, to advertise a contest which 
would get people into their dealers' showrooms. 

Measuring Costs. Mr. Durstine declares: "We have a for- 
mula for measuring the cost of radio programs which is 
extremely interesting when it is applied to all media. We 
take the cost of time plus the known or estimated talent 
cost. This gives us a total cost of the program. We know the 
number of radio families in the primary listening areas of 
the stations used. We have at hand plenty of coincidental 
surveys which show us the number of radio sets tuned in on 
any given program. Then we can divide the number of radio 
sets tuned in to a program by the total cost of that program 
and arrive at the cost per thousand radio sets tuned in. 

"We find, for instance, that a program featuring one of 
the best known names on the air goes into the homes of this 
country at a cost of two dollars and forty-five cents per thou- 
sand radio sets tuned in. Both the time cost and talent cost 
are enormous. We find another program with no big name 
and a very economical talent cost which goes into more than 


a million homes at the same cost per thousand sets tuned in 
as the big, well-known program. Remember that figure 
two dollars and forty-five cents per thousand. 

'Tor outdoor advertising, the cost per thousand net 
audited circulation in the lowest cost, big-center areas is 
eight dollars and seventy-five cents. And every passerby 
doesn't stop and look. The cost per thousand circulation for 
a one thousand line newspaper advertisement is one dollar 
and seventy-five cents in cities of five hundred thousand and 
more. In cities of one hundred thousand to two hundred and 
fifty thousand, it rises to two dollars and forty-three cents 
and in towns under two thousand five hundred to sixteen 
dollars and forty-two cents. 

"Since both of those figures are below the cost quota for 
radio, someone may ask why we ever use anything but 
newspapers. But remember with radio we are talking about 
cost per thousand sets tuned in, while research men tell us 
that no more than ten or fifteen per cent of a newspaper's 
readers ever read the inside pages. 

"The cost of a page in magazine per thousand circulation 
may roughly be estimated in mass periodicals at two dollars 
and sixty-one cents per thousand. Disregarding completely 
whether a thousand people who receive a magazin